Ulster 35 Stormers 5
Ulster exacted a measure of revenge for two narrow defeats, including one in last season’s URC semi-final, with a thumping victory over a Stormers side missing arguably a dozen front-line players and further weakened when beset by injuries before and during the match.
Dan McFarland will be pleased that his team built on last week’s victory over the Sale Sharks in Europe.
Three tries in the first half gave the home side a 21-0 interval lead and they added two more in the second half much to the delight of the home supporters. The home side were good at times albeit against an emasculated Stormers side, their dominance facilitated by several super individual displays.
Stewart Moore and James Hume provided the creative spark for three of the tries, Harry Sheridan lost nothing in comparison with his backrow buddies, all three of whom had a super game, so too Sam Carter and the popular Jeff Toomaga Allen, who was nominated as the man of the match for his robust carrying topped off with a try.
Ulster had an early try disallowed when Sheridan was correctly penalised for blocking as Tom Stewart broke off the maul from a five-metre lineout. That first opportunity followed directly after a 12-minute stoppage, Stormers hooker JJ Kotze was stretchered off following a clash of heads with team-mate Ben-Jason Dixon.
The home side took the lead shortly afterwards, Stewart Moore’s clever line and excellent footwork from a scrum enabled him to make the initial line break and several phases later Nathan Doak was sharp to appreciate the absence of fringe defenders at a ruck three metres from the Stormers’ line to dot down, a try he converted.
Moore was the catalyst for his side’s second try, once again making the definitive break and then shortly afterwards supplying the try scoring pass to wing Ben Moxham. Conception and execution was reminiscent of Ulster at their fluent best, tempo and ambition admirable.
By the time the first quarter had elapsed the Stormers, who had suffered two late withdrawals, fullback Clayton Blommetjies and flanker Junior Pokomela before the match, had lost three starters, hooker Kotze, outhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis (HIA) and number eight Evan Roos.
The Stormers finally made their way into the Ulster 22 following a little indiscipline and a couple of handling errors but gritty scrambling defence and Ulster’s imperious number eight Duane Vermeulen’s third penalty turnover at the breakdown lifted the siege.
Nick Timoney crossed for Ulster’s third try in first half injury time, referee Mike Adamson the only person in the ground that saw a grounding, which couldn’t be overruled following a TMO review, based on the original decision. Doak tagged on the conversion for a 21-0 interval lead.
[ ‘See ball hit ball’ - Ross Adair’s roundabout journey from Ulster Rugby to Irish cricket ]
Young flanker Sheridan had a fine half, Sam Carter and Timoney too, while Burns mixed his game nicely and the midfield of Moore and James Hume caused the visitors problems, so too Michael Lowry. The key for the home side was to maintain the energy levels.
The South African side lost Dixon to the sin bin and in his absence Ulster’s tighthead prop Jeff Toomaga Allen crossed for the bonus point try, Hume’s break and pass gave his team-mate an unopposed run-in.
Lowry grabbed Ulster’s fifth try as coach Dan McFarland looked to his bench to try and ensure that there was no drop off in pace and intensity, but it didn’t really have the effect for which he hoped.
Instead, it was the Stormers that showed character and grit despite the 35-0 scoreline but unfortunately for the visitors they lacked the accuracy. They did manage to get a reward which their endeavour deserved with a try through replacement Andre-Hugo Venter.
Scoring sequence – 13 mins: Doak try, Doak conversion, 7-0; 20 mins: Moxham try, Doak conversion, 14-0; 40 (+1) mins: Timoney try, Doak conversion, 21-0. Half-time: 21-0. 45 mins: Toomaga Allen try, Doak conversion, 28-0; 56 mins: Lowry try, Cooney conversion, 35-0; 77 mins: Venter try, 35-5.
ULSTER: M Lowry; R Lyttle, J Hume, S Moore, B Moxham; B Burns, N Doak; E O’Sullivan, T Stewart, J Toomaga Allen; A O’Connor (capt), S Carter; H Sheridan, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. Replacements: J Andrew for Stewart 51 mins; K Treadwell for Carter 51 mins; J Cooney for Doak 51 mins; R Sutherland for O’Sullivan 54 mins; J Murphy for Sheridan 54 mins; E McIlroy for Lyttle 58 mins; A Warwick for Toomaga Allen 64 mins; I Madigan for Burns 71 mins.
STORMERS: K Wolhuter; S Hartzenberg, R Nel, S Feinberg-Mngomezulu, C Smit; J-L du Plessis, S Ungerer; A Vermaak, JJ Kotze, B Harris; B-J Dixon, M Orie (capt); M Theunissen, W Engelbrecht, E Roos. Replacements: S Ntubeni for Kotze 3 mins; J de Jongh for Du Plessis (HIA) 22 mins; R van Heerden for Roos 22 mins; A H Venter for Ntubeni 46 mins; S Sandi for Harris 54 mins; H Jantjies for Ungerer 54 mins; K Blose for Vermaak 55 mins; C Evans for Orie 55 mins.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Yellow card: Dixon (Stormers) 43 mins.