Edinburgh break Ulster hearts with last-gasp drop goal
See-saw ending to game sees Duncan Weir snatch added-time win
Ulster’s Andrew Warwick is tackled by Edinburgh’s Bill Mata at the Kingspan Stadium last night. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho
ULSTER 16 EDINBURGH 17
Ulster’s unravelling season shipped even more ruinous-looking damage as they lost third-place last night to Edinburgh courtesy of replacement Duncan Weir’s last-gasp drop goal which meant they slipped out of the play-off zone.
A week which began with speculation that head coach Jono Gibbes might be on his way to the Wallabies, ended with Ulster’s grip on a play-off place being potentially terminally loosened as they failed to close out a game which they led 13-7 with just over 20 minutes left to play.
There were mitigating circumstances, losing Craig Gilroy early on to injury before Johnny McPhillips – their now main option at 10 – also left the field, but Ulster again showed an inability to close the deal with Edinburgh finishing strongly in the closing stages and the northern province simply unable to resist.
All their points were scored by John Cooney, via a try, conversion and three penalties, and he ended up at out-half after McPhillips departed.
They will rue their inability to run the clock down as well as abjectly failing to get on the front-foot in the second half with a breeze at their backs.
Cooney’s third penalty had nudged Ulster 16-14 ahead after Lewis Carmichael’s try and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion had briefly put Richard Cockerill’s side 14-13 in front but the visitors had the composure to turn all their endgame pressure into the three points they needed to deservedly win.
The sight of Gilroy reluctantly leaving the field with what looked like injured ribs after a mere six minutes only spurred Ulster – playing into the strong breeze – to strike first and they did so shortly afterwards when Louis Ludik and Nick Timoney combined to put John Cooney over under the sticks after carving Edinburgh open out wide. Cooney converted to put them 7-0 up after eight minutes.
Even though the northern province were looking pretty sharp with McPhillips’s long skip passes creating space in the wide channels and their first-up defence looking good too, they couldn’t back up Cooney’s score.
It took a double tackle from Timoney and Rob Herring to deny flanker Villame Mata just before the half hour and then in the 34th minute, the Scots struck.
Worryingly for Ulster Richard Cockerill’s men broke out of their 22 off a scrum, after the home side’s maul had been held up, and scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne raced clear after McPhillips went down hurt.
Picked his moment
Hidalgo-Clyne then added the conversion as McPhillips left the field with a serious looking arm injury.
Ulster, now with Cooney at out-half, ended the opening 40 minutes camped on their own line and were fortunate to get off with the scores tied at 7-7.
Cooney’s long-range strike two minutes after the restart put Ulster 10-7 up. After absorbing more pressure as well as seemingly losing Herring and the freshly returned Jean Deysel to knocks, Cooney then added a second penalty six minutes before the hour to stretch the home side’s lead to 13-7.
But the Scots roared back with lock Lewis Carmichael smashing through some tiring Ulster tacklers to score in the 62nd minute with Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion putting them in a one-point lead.
Three minutes later, though, Ulster had the lead again through Cooney’s third penalty.
But the home side were unable to then lift Edinburgh’s almost incessant pressure and do enough to prevent Weir’s last-minute drop goal.
ULSTER: L Ludik; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, T Bowe; J McPhillips, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, W Herbst, A O’Connor (capt), K Treadwell, M Rea, N Timoney, J Deysel. Replacements: D Busby for 6mins, J Stewart for McPhillips 35mins, D Cave for Busby 44mins- 52mins, K McCall for Warwick and R Ah You for Herbst 53mins, J Andrew for Herring 54mins, C Henry for Deysel 55mins, M Dalton for Treadwell 66mins, A Warwick for McCall 74mins.
EDINBURGH: D Fife, J Harries, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe, J van der Walt, S Higalgo-Clyne; J Lay, N Cochrane, M McCallum, F McKenzie (capt), L Carmichael, V Mata, J Hardie, C du Preez. Replacements: R Sutherland for Lay, E Millar Mills for McCallum and L Crosbie for Hardie all 52mins, M Bradbury for Du Preez 59mins, C Fenton for Cochrane and N Fowles for Hidaglo-Clyne both 64mins, Weir for Van der Walt 71mins, Du Preez for McKenzie 71mins.
Referee: N Owens (WRU)