Ulster send Scarlets packing
Ulster 47 Scarlets 15: Leaders Ulster hammered home their dominance in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 32 point win over second-placed Scarlets at Ravenhill this evening.
Mark Ancombe’s side took full advantage of a badly depleted Welsh side, denied nearly a dozen players through injury or suspension, to put an 11-point cushion between themselves and Glasgow Warriors. The Scots moved second with a bonus win over Benetton Treviso, one point ahead of Leinster, who are third after a 31-16 win over Edinburgh in Murrayfield.
Ulster were always good for this win, despite only leading 9-3 at half-time. They scored five tries after taking complete control up front in the second half but will be concerned over Dan Tuohy having to leave the field injured in the first half. Robbie Diack, Andrew Trimble, Nick Williams – who was again immense – Neil McComb and a penalty try all crossed the Scarlets line, while Ruan Pienaar kicked 16 points on his 50th appearance.
The visitors struck first after Chris Henry was pinged after Tavis Knoyle and Rob McCusker got in a tangle at the back of a Scarlets put-in and Thomas made no mistake with the straightforward effort after nine minutes.
Ulster then lost fullback Adam D’Arcy to injury but hit back when Tom Court won a scrum penalty and Pienaar made no mistake to level the scores.
The game sprung into life just after the half hour when Andrew Trimble launched a counter-attack which led to a great Williams carry, which in turn resulted in the Scarlets being penalised and Pienaar adding the 35th minute penalty to put Ulster 6-3 up. However, the sight of Tuohy limping off shortly afterwards did nothing to ease the home side’s concerns ahead of their European fortnight. Still, Pienaar nailed a late penalty to make it 9-3 at the turnaround.
Ulster came out of the traps quickly with Williams again being central to Diack’s 43rd-minute score under the posts after the number eight off-loaded to Herring, who then provided Diack with the score which was easily converted by Pienaar.
Another Pienaar penalty five minutes later took it to 19-3 and then in the 56th minute Williams again went on a rampaging run but Scott Williams managed to get in the way of Nick Williams’ scoring pass to Paddy Wallace.
Even though the decision went to the TMO, Ulster won a free kick at the subsequent scrum and Williams was off and over with Pienaar adding the extras to take it to 26-3.
The Scarlets, though, now having seen George North stretchered off, hit back with Josh Turnbull getting over with just over 10 minutes remaining and Thomas converted to make it 26-10.
With the game now breaking up, Trimble took a good angle and scythed through to score with Darren Cave adding the drop-kicked conversion with only seven minutes left on the clock. Ulster grabbed their bonus when a penalty try was awarded and Aled Thomas was binned after he had interfered with Paddy Jackson’s scoring pass from an offside position.
Jackson then added the conversion and Ulster finished the rout when Neil McComb was driven over with Jackson again doing the needful.
Scott Williams’s injury-time try was mere consolation.