Ulster beaten in Belfast as Edinburgh make physicality pay

Northern province fortunate to get away with two points after flat performance

URC: Ulster 24 Edinburgh 27

Ulster fell to their second successive defeat to Scottish opposition as Edinburgh’s greater physicality and accuracy brought them a rare but entirely deserved win in Belfast in the United Rugby Championship.

The northern province were indeed fortunate to steal away from this fairly flat effort with two points thanks to James Hume’s 81st-minute try which brought them two points from their evening’s work.

Defensive softness close to their line allied with Edinburgh’s scrummaging strength – this on Steven Kitshoff’s first start – as well as Jamie Ritchie’s breakdown dominance and Ben Healy’s game management all gradually undermined Ulster’s prospects which will have badly damaged them ahead of their European opener at Bath.


Just five minutes were on the clock when Ulster got things going, Tom Stewart peeling off a maul to dot down after Jamie Ritchie had been pinged at the breakdown after a steal off Steven Kitshoff.

John Cooney converted, and Ulster were 7-0 to the good and then came close minutes later when Billy Burns’ high kick was missed by Tim Swiel but gobbled up by Rob Baloucoune.

The Ulster winger linked with Nick Timoney but was brought down by a scrambling Wes Goosen before Cooney was held and shortly after the recycle, Ritchie won a vital steal.

Edinburgh got back into the game after winning a scrum penalty – their second in quick succession – with Ben Healy kicking from distance after 16 minutes to cut Ulster’s lead.

Seven minutes later and off a penalty which resulted in a lineout launch, Edinburgh stretched Ulster and worked their way to the line where skipper Ben Vellacott had a far too easy task in reaching over the line to score, the close-in defence around the ruck simply not functioning. Healy converted and the game had swung the visitors’ way.

However, the lead was short-lived as from a Jacob Stockdale 50/22, Ulster fired up their maul after Kieran Treadwell’s take and Edinburgh failed to stop the home team’s momentum, Stewart crashing through a pile of bodies to score his second.

Cooney failed to convert but Ulster led again, this time by 12-10 but couldn’t hold on until the end of the half.

With clock nearing red, Ewan Ashman gobbled up Stewart’s lineout overthrow and after James McNabney was pinged for not rolling away, Healy did the needful, landing the three-pointer in the 41st minute and nudging Edinburgh 13-12 in front at the break.

Stewart came close to claiming his hat-trick early on following the restart but was held up by Viliame Mata and then Stockdale lost possession when hit by WP Nel near the line.

James Hume then got over the line after a huge amount of Ulster pressure, but the score was ruled out after Robert Baloucoune was adjudged to have juggled the ball forward before slapping it back.

After absorbing a sustained period of Ulster pressure, Edinburgh lifted the siege and when visiting the home team’s 22, Pierre Schoeman drove over from close range after some close-in drives with the province’s on line defence again breached. Healy converted and Edinburgh now led 20-12.

Edinburgh kept cranking up the pressure – Hamish Watson and Ali Price making considerable impacts off the bench – and James Lang was over in the corner in the 64th minute only for the TMO to rule it out due to a foot in touch.

But the Scottish capital’s side came strongly again and after some powerful carrying, former Ulster player Adam McBurney was held short, they again battered their way over from short range, Robin Hislop touching down, Healy converting.

Ulster responded with seven minutes left when Stewart put Robert Baloucoune over, but Doak was unable to convert.

It didn’t look as if there was any back when they were then reduced to 14 when Ben Moxham was stretchered off – there were no subs left to bring on – but got a break when Harry Patterson was shown yellow for Edinburgh in the 77th minute.

A crooked throw from former Ulster player Adam McBurney gave them one more shot and James Hume struck with the last play to earn Ulster two points – a try bonus and narrow defeat – the final act being Doak’s conversion.

Ulster tries: Stewart 2, Baloucoune, Hume; Cons: Cooney, Doak.

Edinburgh tries: Vellacott, Schoeman, Hislop; Cons: Healy 3; Pens: Healy 2.

Ulster: W Addison, R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale, B Burns, J Cooney, S Kitshoff, T Stewart, T O’Toole, A O’Connor (capt), K Treadwell, Matty Rea, N Timoney, J McNabney

Replacements: J Andrew for Stewart 75mins, A Warwick for Kitshoff 60mins, M Moore for O’Toole 55mins, C Izuchukwu for Treadwell 75mins, D Ewers for McNabney 49mins, N Doak for Cooney 49mins, S Moore for McCloskey 55mins, B Moxham for Stockdale 65mins, S McCloskey for Addison 71mins, J McNabney for Rea 55mins.

Edinburgh Rugby: T Swiel, H Paterson, M Currie, J Lang, W Goosen, B Healy, B Vellacott (capt), P Schoeman, E Ashman, WP Nel, M Sykes, J Hodgson, L Crosbie, J Ritchie, V Mata

Replacements: A McBurney for Ashman 64mins, R Hislop for Schoeman 64mins, J Sebastian for WP Nel 64mins, G Young for Hodgson 55mins, H Watson for Crosbie 55mins, A Price for Vellacott 60mins, C Scott for mins, M Bennett unused.

Yellow card: Harry Patterson 78mins

Referee: F Vedovelli (FIR)