Ulster make it four from four as they eke out a win in Wales

John Cooney puts in man-of-the-match performance at Rodney Parade

Ulster fullback Michael Lowry dives over to score despite the attempted tackle of Cardiff’s Kristian Dacey during the Guinness Pro 14 match at Rodney Parade. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Cardiff Blues 7 Ulster 11

A lively, sometimes frantic match closed with both sides gasping. Errors, wrong options and turnovers ensured that in the end an Ulster scrum in the closing seconds that would have run down the clock but was turned over by Cardiff added to a night in which the Irish side didn’t always help themselves.

A few players, John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey, cut loose from the Irish squad and Ulster arrived in a wet Rodney Parade as strong looking as they have been this season. And with three wins from three they left Wales four from four. Pleasing in that a win is a win is a win.

Ulster wasted good territory in the first quarter and with the lineout not functioning in a stiff wind, an under-pressure Cardiff were being squeezed and then let off all too easily. Louis Ludik also dropped the ball with open space in front of him following a sweet break and pass from Billy Burns after five minutes.


But with that breezy beginning Ulster did take the lead after 17 minutes. John Cooney deciding to kick, hitting the upright with the ball deflecting inwards for a 3-0 lead.

That was short lived and just minutes later Cardiff number eight Will Boyde crashed up the middle, Ludik’s head hitting his knee to end his participation. But a clever kick over the top from outhalf Jarrod Evans for an outside centre Rey Lee-Lo dash gave Cardiff the first try, Evans converting to give the home side a 7-3 lead.

From there Ulster camped for over 12 minutes on the Cardiff line. The home side were warned twice by referee Sam Grove-White not to foul, replacement Olly Robinson binned between the two cautions. Finally Michael Lowry stepped his man and zipped over the line two minutes into injury time for Ulster to lead 8-7 at half-time.

On 44 minutes Evans missed a Cardiff penalty into the wind to keep the match to a one-point game. Then man of the match Cooney kicked a straight one for an 11-7 lead on 65 minutes. It proved to be the most important moment of the match as Ulster pulled four points ahead.

Cooney’s effort was the only score in the second half, Ulster leaving satisfied their unbeaten run remains intact and maybe also counting their blessings that they, at least, held things together long enough to pocket the win.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 17 mins: J Cooney pen 0-3; 23 mins: R Lee-Lo try, J Evans con 3-7. 40 mins :M Lowry try 7-8. Half-time. 65 mins: Cooney pen7-11.

CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; A Summerhill, R Lee-Lo, G Smith, H Amos; J Evans, L Jones; C Domachowski, K Dacey (capt), D Arhip; J Ratti, R Thornton; J Turnbull, J Botham, W Boyde.

Replacements: O Robinson for Botham (28 mins); J Tovey for Smith, S Andrews for Arhip, B Murphy for Ratti, G Smith for Lee-Lo (all 56 mins); O Lane for Summerhill (62 mins); J Hill for Jones (73 mins); B Thyer for Domachowski (74 mins); L Lewis for Dacey (75 mins).

ULSTER: M Lowry; C Gilroy, S Moore, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns (capt), J Cooney; E O'Sullivan, A McBurney, M Moore; A O'Connor, K Treadwell; M Rea, J Murphy, N Timoney.

Replacements: E McIlroy for Ludik (24 mins); S Reidy for Timoney, J McGrath for O'Sullivan, J Andrew for McBurney; L Marshall for Moore (all 53 mins); R Kane for Moore (68 mins); A Matheson for Burns (73 mins).

Referee: S Grove (SRU).

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times