Ulster run riot on first outing since departure of Les Kiss
Craig Gilroy went over for a hat-trick of tries in the home side’s mauling of Southern Kings
Ulster’s Craig Gilroy scores a try in their Pro14 clash with Southern Kings. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ulster 59 Southern Kings 10
This always looked like a soft landing for Ulster in the wake of Les Kiss’s sudden departure and so it proved with Craig Gilroy marking his comeback from injury with a hat-trick of tries in a nine-try scorefest for the northern province.
Not the worst way for Jono Gibbes’s time in charge to begin which saw Rob Lyttle cross twice while Stuart McCloskey, Johnny McPhillips, Kieran Treadwell and Darren Cave all made it over the Kings’ tryline.
John Cooney also had a good evening off the tee as he converted seven of the home side’s scores with six of the touchdowns coming in the second half after Ulster had led 21-3 at half-time in a game which saw Limerick’s Joy Neville make history by becoming the first woman to referee a Pro14 game.
However, Ulster lost Charles Piutau, Sean Reidy and Lyttle to injuries which will perhaps have taken some of the gloss off the result.
The first half was only five minutes old when Gilroy danced over for his first try after Cooney’s pass which, in turn, followed a lineout maul from a penalty.
The Kings hit back with a Masixole Banda penalty after Luke Marshall strayed offside before Gilroy’s break, off an inside pass from Johnny McPhillips, saw Stuart McCloskey smash over.
Cooney’s conversion made it 14-3 before the worrying departures of Piutau (arm) and Reidy (leg) but Ulster still finished the half with a carbon-copy of their opening score when Gilroy again crossed near the posts for Cooney to convert.
The home side’s 21-3 half-time lead was then quickly increased when McPhillips scored Ulster’s bonus and Cooney converted.
Lyttle got over in the 49th minute and Cooney again converted, to make it 35-3 which became 40-3 five minutes later when Gilroy got his hat-trick.
Cooney this time missed the extras after the ball hit an upright.
Lyttle then got his second before limping off just as Cooney missed the conversion.
The Kings then ran the length of the field to score in the 70th minute with sub Harlon Klaasen getting the try and fellow sub Barend Janse Van Rensburg converting.
Ulster brought the 50 up three minutes later when Kieran Treadwell crossed with Cooney adding a great conversion and the scoring came to an end when Cave then got over with four minutes left, Cooney converting again.
Scoring sequence – 6mins 5-0 Gilroy try, Cooney con 7-0, 15mins Penxe pen 7-3, 17mins McCloskey try 12-3, Cooney conversion 14-3, 38mins Gilroy try 19-3, Cooney con 21-3, h-t 21-3, 42mins try McPhillips 26-3, con Cooney 28-3, 49mins try Lyttle 33-3, Cooney con 35-3, 54mins Gilroy try 40-3, 59mins Lyttle try 45-3, 70mins try Klaasen, 45-8 con Van Rensburg 45-10, 73mins Treadwell try, 50-10, Cooney con 52-10, 76mins Cave try 57-10, Cooney con 59-10.
ULSTER: C Piutau, C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Lyttle, J McPhillips, J Cooney; A Warwick, J Andrew, W Herbst, A O’Connor (cpt), K Treadwell, M Rea, S Reidy, N Timoney.
Replacements: L Ludik.for Piutau 20mins, C Henry for Reidy 34mins, R Herring for Andrew mins, K McCall for Warwick mins, R Ah You for Herbst mins, J Stewart for McPhillips, D Cave for McCloskey all 56mins, M Dalton for Lyttle 59mins
SOUTHERN KINGS: M Banda, Y Penxe, B Klassen, L Vulindlu, A Volmink, M Du Toit, R Gouws; S Ferreira, M Willemse (cpt), P Scholtz, S Greeff, B De We, A Ntsila, M Burger, R Lerm.
Replacements: H Klassen for Volmink 51mins, G Masimla for Gouws, D van der Westhuizen for Scholtz, J Van Vuuren for Greeff, J Smith S Ferreira, B Janse van Rensburg all 67mins, S Coetzee for Willemse and E Bredenkamp both 70mins.
Referee: J Neville (IRFU).