Stuttering Ulster have enough to keep Benetton at bay
McFarland’s team come from 7-0 behind to make it two wins from two as they head into the international break
Ulster’s Rob Herring scoring a try against Benetton at Stadio Monigo, Treviso, Italy. Photograph: Elena Barbini/Inpho
BENETTON RUGBY 10 ULSTER 15
Ulster moved up to second in the Pro14’s Conference B table after another stuttering performance proved to be enough to get past their hosts.
The northern province, who were weakened by international call-ups but had both Stuart McCloskey and Rob Herring back in their ranks after being released by Ireland, came from being 7-0 behind to make it two wins from two as they head into the international break.
It was only Ulster’s second away win of the season though it was anything but convincing, and their lineout issues were horribly exposed again throughout the game. They did just about enough to keep Benetton, who attacked with more purpose than Dan McFarland’s squad, at bay.
“It was really important [that we won],” said McFarland. “Although we put ourselves under the pump in the first half we showed some [fight] every inch mentality.
“We fought hard and to go in at half-time 7-3 down was testament to our defence, and I was pleased with that aspect.
“Coming out we showed much better urgency at the breakdown, and we managed to put some phases together, and it resulted in pressure and tries.”
Second-half tries from Sean Reidy and Herring – Ulster trailed 7-3 at the turnaround – brought the visitors the four points against a Benetton side also heavily diluted by international commitments.
The Italians were totally dominant in the opening 40 minutes, but could only manage a solitary try from hooker Hame Faiva, scored off a lineout maul in the second minute, along with Tommaso Allan’s conversion to show for all their territory and possession.
Dislodge the ball
After the restart, an early try from Reidy – Burns who had kicked a first-half penalty missed the conversion – put Ulster in front, and they stayed there until the end.
McCloskey had a 51st minute try ruled out for not grounding the ball after his stretch for the line was looked at by referee Mike Adamson and the TMO but, with flanker Michele Lamaro in the bin for pulling down a subsequent maul, Ulster took immediate advantage, with Herring driving over from close range.
Burns’ conversion put Ulster eight in front, and although the Italians finished strongly – Allen kicking a 62nd minute penalty – their own inaccuracy undid their efforts and the home side had to content themselves with a losing bonus point.
BENETTON RUGBY: J Hayward, R Tavuyara, I Brex, A Sgarbi, T Benvenuti, T Allen, D Duvenage; D Appiah, H Faiva, S Ferrari, I Herbst, A Zanni, D Budd (capt), M Lamaro, M Barbini. Subs: A Rizzi for Hayward (35 mins), T Baravalle for Favia and M Riccioni for Ferrari (both 48 mins), G Pettinelli for Budd and A Esposito for Tavuyara (both 59 mins), A De Marchi for Appiah and E Gori for Duvenage (both 70 mins), N Cannone for Herbst (72 mins). Yellow card: Lamaro (52-62 mins)
ULSTER: P Nelson, R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, H Speight, B Burns, D Shanahan; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor (capt), K Treadwell, M Coetzee, S Reidy, N Timoney. Subs: A Kernohan for Baloucoune (35 mins), T O’Toole for Moore and G Jones for Reidy and A Warwick for E O’Sullivan (all 62 mins), J Andrew for Herring (63 mins), C Ross for Coetzee (74 mins). Not used: J Stewart, J McPhillips, A Kernohan.
Referee: M Adamson (SRU)