Ulster win marred by Ferris injury
RUGBY: Ulster 45 Edinburgh 20: BOTH SIDES were severely depleted by the impending autumn internationals but this is where the parallel ended as Ulster recovered their poise to stretch their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions while staying out front in the Pro 12 League.
It was anything but a pretty performance despite Ulster running in six tries, but this will have done their morale no harm while Edinburgh boss Michael Bradley’s troubles continue.
There were eye-catching efforts from Ruan Pienaar – who scored 17 points by converting all six tries and getting one himself – and Craig Gilroy who was released by the Ireland camp and produced a storming display.
Jared Payne also grabbed two tries from outside centre though all this finishing was tempered by the sight of Stephen Ferris hobbling off in the second half, on his first game back for a month, which may now put his hopes of Ireland involvement and further Ulster action in further doubt.
The home side’s start was certainly one to forget with them losing their first lineout, being pinged at the initial scrum and then missing two kicks to touch.
While Ulster made a meal of things, Edinburgh stole in to get the first points on the board. After centre James King was hauled down short by Gilroy, Ulster managed to lose the ball at the back of their own scrum after Paul Marshall fumbled it.
The Scots gladly accepted the gift and Tom Brown wriggled over in the left corner after they flashed the ball across the backline. Gregor Hunter’s conversion of the try made it 7-0 after ten minutes.
Niall O’Connor – on as a blood replacement for Ruan Pienaar – narrowed matters with a 13th-minute penalty, but Hunter then made it 10-3 to the Scots.
Ulster, though, came to life after Roger Wilson was gifted an Edinburgh lineout and a sweeping move saw winger Chris Cochrane just lose out on the race to the ball from Jared Payne’s chip through.
Still, an Ulster put-in at a five-metre scrum resulted in Nigel Owens awarding a penalty try after the third reset. Pienaar converted to level it at 10-10.
Six minutes later Ulster led 24-10 thanks to a marvellous counter from Gilroy who freed up Payne to canter in and then Pienaar, yet again, charged down a kick to score under the posts, with the South African converting both.
Edinburgh weren’t finished and another score from Brown, converted by Hunter, right at the end of the half narrowed Ulster’s lead to 24-17 at the interval.
Hunter then made it 24-20 two minutes in before Ferris hobbled off, though the sight of a fully charged Nick Williams arriving clearly lifted Ulster’s spirit.
With Ulster applying the screw, Marshall took a tap penalty under Edinburgh’s posts and after he was taken high at the line, the ball was spun right to Wilson who scored at the corner for Ulster’s bonus score.
Pienaar converted brilliantly and Ulster now led 31-20 and then, on 68 minutes, Payne dashed over for his second under the sticks which Pienaar again converted.
Gilroy finished the scoring with a try in the 80th minute which Pienaar converted.
ULSTER:R Andrew; C Cochrane, J Payne, P Wallace, C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall; C Black, N Brady (capt), J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb, S Ferris, M McComish, R Wilson. Replacements: N O’Connor for Pienaar 11-21mins (blood), R Diack for L Stevenson (38 mins), N Williams for S Ferris (45 mins), S Olding for P Wallace and N O’Connor for P Marshall (both 63 mins), N Annett for N Brady and P Nelson for R Andrew (68 mins), A Macklin for Afoa (69 mins), R Lutton for Black (73 mins).
EDINBURGH:G Tonks; L Jones, J Houston, J King, T Brown; G Hunter, C Leck; J Yapp, A Titterrell, W Nel; G Gilchrist, R McAlpine; S Cox (capt), R Grant, S McInally.
Replacements:A Jacobsen for J Yapp (h-t), D Fife for J King (42 mins), H Crossan for S McInally (65 mins), L Niven for W Nel (67 mins).
Referee:N Owens (WRU).