Rousing reception for Ulster star Chris Henry

Chris Henry takes to the pitch
Chris Henry takes to the pitch

Ireland and Ulster flanker Chris Henry was delighted to get back on the rugby pitch for the first time since October as he came off the bench for the last 22 minutes in the bonus win over Cardiff.

Henry was a 58th minute replacement as he made an earlier than expected return to playing having undergone heart surgery last November.

First half tries from Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik plus two penalties and a conversion from Ruan Pienaar gave Ulster an 18-0 lead at the break, which Pienaar extended to 21 points just after half time.

But Caridff came to within four points of the hosts with two tries through Isaacs and Cuthbert, both converted by Gareth Anscombe who also landed a penalty.

However, Ulster went on to secure a try scoring bonus point when Ludik crossed for his second and Paul Marshall went over in the last play of the game.

With Leinster and leaders Glasgow drawing in Dublin 34-all - each side also taking a try scoring bonus point - Ulster are now two points behind the Scottish region.

However, since speculation had mounted on Thursday about Henry’s potential return the focus last night was on the international once he came on for Clive Ross.

“It was a very special night for me, there was amazing noise and atmosphere when I came on the pitch and it is something I won’t be forgetting very quickly,” said Henry.

“It has been a rough four months and to get back earlier than expected, Doaky said some special words to me before the match and I have been so lucky with everyone around me with the support I have had with team mates and coaches my family and my friends.

“The week was all about the team but ultimately I’m just glad to have it done because there were so many nerves and I’m glad it’s behind me.”

Henry came on in the midst of a Cardiff fight back but Ulster closed the game out with to late tries.

“Darren spoke well after the game and said how well the bench did and I think that was the case, all the subs that came on, for us as a team we have had decent wins.

“ But have the performances been up there I don’t think so and I think we showed it from the first try which was amazing, we ran the phases kept the ball nicely and hopefully this is a spring board for us, everyone is determined to achieve what we can.

“We’re in a good place and that was what Doaky wanted there is a lot to work on but we have to be happy with that.”

Henry came on as the game was getting fast and loose.

“The pace was very tough, you can do as much pre season work as you want.

“I’m strong in the gym and I’ve been lucky the conditioning staff have got me in a good place but you can’t replicate a match and for me it was about making sure I got through it.”

“The pace was tough and it is going to take a while to get used to it but I’m just so glad to get back out there.”

“I got the green light on Tuesday afternoon which surprised everyone we didn’t think it would be so soon and Doaky had a tough decision to make, so now it’s about building up contact and that was a prefect blow out for me.”

“I have two weeks now to get my head down and cause so many headaches for Doaky.”