Ulster 16 Cardiff Blues 12
It took the aftermath of this ugly arm-wrestle before we got some fireworks when Cardiff Blues coach John Mulvihill let rip after feeling incensed at several decisions under South African referee Stuart Berry's watch.
“We weren’t happy with how the game was officiated, and I’m starting to get to a stage where I’m sick of it,” said the Australian in comments that are sure to not go unnoticed.
“The way the game was officiated towards the end wasn’t right. Under the goalposts at the end, three [Ulster] players off their feet, one in particular off his feet, hands not even on the ball, his hands were at the back of the ruck but the referee calls holding on. The ref was in the wrong position, he didn’t see it, and he didn’t even go to the TMO.
“You’ve got decisions where we get a yellow card [against Seb Davies in the 54th minute] for someone cleaning someone out. It wasn’t a shoulder charge, it was a clean out and he wrapped his arms.”
While reckoning a second-half exchange between Stuart McCloskey and Lloyd Williams ought to have ended with a red card for the Ulsterman, Mulvihill was particularly upset about an incident in the 60th minute which he maintained ought to have brought a penalty try.
“When Tomos Williams makes the break, the ball is knocked out of his hands, Jason Harries goes for the ball and he’s tackled by McCloskey five metres from the try line without the ball.
“No penalty try, no TMO, scrum [to Ulster for what was adjudged to be a Blues knock-on].”
He then lashed out at the wider target of officiating in the Pro14. “First three games, I’ve spoken to the referees’ boss, he has told me on email, and on my phone, that if the game was officiated properly we would have won the first three games.
“Now, there are big stakes in rugby, people lose their jobs and players lose their roles, so it has to be better than it was,” added an infuriated Mulvihill whose side collected a losing bonus point after out-scoring Ulster by two tries to one.
Ulster recovered from trailing 12-10 after a first half where they had been comprehensively out-played to snatch this win thanks to the only scoring from the second half through two John Cooney penalties, which he added after a conversion and penalty in the opening half on his return to provincial duty.
The Northern province will need to massively improve for Parc y Scarlets on Friday – the first of their European back-to-back clashes a mere two weeks after losing there in the Pro14 – and with Iain Henderson and Will Addison the only ones not involved from their Ireland contingent last weekend, their display against the Blues is a cause for real concern.
Ulster had trailed 12-10 after Matthew Morgan and Kris Dacey had scored first-half tries, with the home side's try coming from an unorthodox effort by Kieran Treadwell.
Davies' second half yellow card for a hit on Ross Kane looked a big moment and Cooney nudged them ahead three minutes later.
Cooney's second penalty was followed by more Blues' pressure, only for replacements Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale to win turnover penalties – the former's being a big issue for Mulvihill – to help Ulster hold out.
ULSTER: M Lowry; H Speight; J Hume, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore; A O'Connor (capt), K Treadwell; S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee. Replacements: I Nagle for O'Connor 35mins, J McPhillips for Burns 36mins, J Stockdale for Lowry 42mins, E O'Sullivan for Warwick 43mins, R Kane for Moore 45mins, R Best for Herring 50mins , N Timoney for Murphy 71mins. Not used: D Shanahan
CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; B Scully, H Millard, R Lee-Lo, J Harries; J Evans, L Williams (capt); R Gill, K Dacey, S Andrews, S Davies, J Turnbull, S Manoa, O Robinson, N Williams. Replacements: G Smith for for Lee-Lo 42mins, R Carre for Gill 50mins, D Lewis for Andrews 50mins, G Earle for Manoa 54mins, T Williams for L Williams 54mins, L Belcher for Dacey 62mins, S Shingler for Millard 65mins, J Down for N Williams 70mins. Yellow card: Davies 54mins
Referee: S Berry (South Africa).