Ulster too strong for Emirate Lions
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Dan McFarland’s side were made to work hard in the 26-10 triumph as they faced the Emirate Lions for the first time in a competitive match.
Ulster can reflect on 20 points out of a possible 20, having won all four games with a host of internationals missing - but, again, the performance wasn’t polished but it didn’t need to be against a Lions side on the last leg of their four-game European tour.
It took Ulster less than four minutes to get their first try, with a move straight from the training paddock.
Billy Burns kicked a penalty to the corner and, with the visitors expecting the ball to be lobbed to Sam Carter they left a gap at the front of the lineout.
Rob Herring hit Andy Warwick standing at No1 and the prop showed soft hands to put flanker Nick Timoney through the space to touchdown, but Nathan Doak failed to convert.
The Loins hit back on 17 minutes as from a lineout they went over the top and No8 Ruhan Straeuli burst through and was stopped short. The South Africans had another couple of probes at the line before out half EW Viljoen flung it wide for winger Stean Pienaar to cross, with his No10 converting.
Ulster should have regained the lead on 29 minutes as James Hume and Burns combined to put Ethan McIlroy into space and he drew the last defender before popping to David McCann but, with an open try line, the No8 dropped the scoring pass.
Ulster did get their second try five minutes later as Burns made an initial break in the Lions’ 22, Will Addison and Doak had darts for the line and from a ruck under the posts the Ireland out half shifted the ball wide, leaving Hume with an easy run-in with Doak converting.
Viljoen landed a penalty in the last minute of the first half to cut Ulster’s lead at the interval to 12-10.
Ulster extensive injury list got worse on 45 minutes as the luckless Addison was stretched off with a leg injury.
Matty Rea got Ulster’s third try three minutes later when the home side were awarded a penalty under the posts, Timoney took a quick tap he was stopped but his backrow colleague was able to squeeze over with Doak converting.
Ulster nearly got the bonus point try on 63 minutes, as lock Alan O’Connor showed a turn of pace to sprint towards the line but he was stopped short, Doak picked up but spilled the ball forward trying to get over the line.
Man of the match Timoney wrapped up the bonus point with his second try on 66 minutes.
Burns went to the corner with a penalty, Kieran Treadwell took the lineout and, as the maul rumbled towards the line, Brad Roberts broke from the back and surged but couldn’t get over.
Timoney picked up and he wasn’t going to be stopped from close range as he powered through with Doak converting.
The Lions wasted several try-scoring opportunities in the last 10 minutes.
Ulster: W Addison, C Gilroy, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy; B Burns, N Doak, A Warwick, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, S Carter (capt), M Rea, N Timoney, D McCann,
Replacements: B Roberts for Herring 58 mins, E O’Sullivan for Warwick 52 mins, R Kane for O’Toole 66 mins, K Treadwell for Carter 44 mins, S Reidy for McCann 58 mins, D Shanahan for Doak 74 mins, M Lowry for Addison 45 mins, B Moxham for Moore 74 mins.
LIONS: D Roussouw, S Pienaar, M Rass, MB Odendaal (capt), S Maxwane, EW Viljoen, A Warner, S Sithole, J Visagie, C Sadie; R Schoeman, R Nothnagel, S Sangweni, V Tshituka, R Straeuli,
Replacements: PJ Botha for Visagie 65 mins, R Dreyer for Sithole 49 mins, A Ntlabakanye for Sadie 61 mins, W van der Sluys for Schoeman 65 mins, E Tshituka for Straeuli 61 mins, M van den Berg for Warner 65 mins, F Zeilinga for Viljoen 74 mins, W Simelane for Rass 36 mins.
Referee: M Adamson (SRU).