Jared Payne makes a splash but no bonus point for Ulster
Treviso win is a fourth success in a row for Les Kiss’ team but bonus point was needed
Ulster’s Jared Payne scores the first try of the game on his return to the Ulster XV. Photograph: Inpho
Ulster 19 Treviso 7
Knowing you needed another bonus point win was one thing, but delivering it, on an absolutely foul night in Belfast, was quite another and Ulster’s failure to do so could cost yet cost them dearly.
True, they did rack up a fourth win in succession but Les Kiss’s squad, even with their game in hand at home to Zebre next weekend, really needed to bag another five points. And not being able to do so against an obdurate Treviso side will stick in the craw.
There were also strong showings from Stuart Olding, Ruan Pienaar and Marcell Coetzee too but Ulster’s error rate - even allowing for the weather - was too high and their accuracy let them down on numerous occasions after only leading 7-0 at the break.
After a pretty messy start from Ulster - which saw Tito Tebaldi push a second minute penalty wide and Andrew Trimble losing the ball after two incursions - they managed to send out a statement with an impressively shunted scrum putting them in Treviso’s mud-spattered 22.
The net result led to several more penalties and off another scrum, Pienaar fed Olding whose pass to Payne saw the Kiwi ghost through some fairly feeble Treviso defence to dot down at the posts.
Pienaar landed the straightforward conversion and the momentum seemed to be with the northern province.
From there, though, any expectation that the Italians would fold was soon shown to be somewhat wide of the mark despite Ulster dominating territory and possession.
Which was fine except that Kiss’s side failed to add any further points with knock-ons and turnovers becoming increasingly prevalent.
Ulster’s lineouts were off the money and even though their maul did look impressive, on two occasions they failed to finish the job with the strong-running Coetzee knocking on and Roger Wilson being penalised right at the end of the half for accidental offside.
The errors continued at the start of the second half but then a yellow card for Fransesco Minto for a non-arm tackle in the 46th minute gave them an opportunity to break down the Italian defence - which resulted in Reidy’s 52nd minute try which came off a home side scrum and half-break from Payne.
Pienaar converted but couldn’t add another when, just after Minto returned, Olding - now at out-half - put in a cross-kick which was latched onto by Piutau.
From there, yet again, Ulster failed to push on and take full control and after a raft of errors it was the Italians who deservedly scored next with former Ulster squad member Teofilo Paulo scoring in the 70th minute which Ian McKinley converted.
Now going all out to get down the field, Ulster just couldn’t find the breakthrough and had to settle for the four points.
Ulster: C Gilroy; A Trimble, J Payne, S Olding, C Piutau; P Nelson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; K Treadwell, F van der Merwe; R Wilson, S Reidy, M Coetzee.
Replacements: C Ross for Wilson 48mins , A Warwick for Black 54mins, R Lutton for Herbst 54mins, L Marshall for Nelson 54mins, J Stockdale for Gilroy 61mins, P Browne for Reidy 66mins, J Andrew for Herring 71mins, P Marshall for Pienaar 75mins
Benetton Treviso: L Sperandio; A Esposito, T Iannone, M Tagicakibau, A Buondonno; I McKinley, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, T Pasquali; T Paulo, D Budd (capt), M Lazzaroni, F Minto, R Barbieri.
Replacements: A Sgarbi for Tagicakibau 54mins, R Santamaria for Bigi and M Zanusso for Pasquali both 56mins, A Pratichetti for Buondonno 57mins, G Bronzini for Tebaldi 60mins, R Acosta for Zani 61mins, F Gerosa for Minto 71mins,
Yellow cards: F Minto 46-56
Referee: D Jones (WRU)