Ulster toil to ultimately take the winning road
Scarlets 12 Ulster 19:Mark Anscombe was left downbeat as Ulster stuttered to a hard-fought victory over the Scarlets to continue their 100 per cent start to the season. Andrew Trimble pounced for the only try in the dour top of the table clash and Paddy Jackson kept the score board ticking with a 14-point haul.
The victory sees Ulster stretch their lead at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table to nine points ahead of this week’s return to Heineken Cup action.
But Anscombe was disappointed with his side’s continued dip in performance, especially after getting out of jail twice in Italy. He said: “It doesn’t feel like a win. It was a poor game. We didn’t look after the ball, gave away too many penalties, made dumb decisions and were inaccurate.
“After the last few weeks I’m worried about our ability to keep the ball and strike. We only scored one try and that was from an interception.
“We didn’t build any pressure and didn’t take opportunities. An international frontrow giving away a couple of penalties at the end is unacceptable and gave them the bonus-point.
“We have a nine-point buffer at the top of the table but if we don’t pick things up that will get eaten up pretty quickly.”
Ulster have a five day turnaround before their trip to Franklin’s Gardens. Anscombe expects to have a full contingent available but insists his side must vastly improve.
He added: “There were players who had a opportunity for next week but didn’t put their hands up. We know we have to be a lot better next week or we will get our backsides kicked by Northampton.
“We will address the problems this week but need to be a lot more accurate.”
Johann Muller returned but Ulster were without Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace, Jared Payne and Stephen Ferris. But they welcomed back a host of international stars, with Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy all starting. The Scarlets were not so fortunate and were without their 12 current Welsh internationals.
Both outhalves missed early opportunities to strike but Jackson made amends and booted his side into the lead on nine minutes with a straight-forward 40 metre penalty.
Jackson tried to utilise a chip and chase, with Darren Cave and Luke Marshall flooding through but Dan Newton was up to the task and beat both players before clearing his lines.
Ulster were penalised from the ensuing lineout and Thomas curled in a touchline effort to level the scores.
But Trimble landed the decisive blow on 28 minutes. The Ireland wing picked off Gareth Owen’s floated pass and cantered 65 metres for his fourth try of the season. Anscombe’s men were beginning to establish a foot-hold on the game as the Scarlets paid the price for unforced errors. Jackson stretched the lead to 10-points after John Afoa split the Scarlets’ scrum.