Ulster secure home quarter-final with bonus-point raid at Murrayfield
Dan McFarland’s side make up for poor showing against Glasgow
Rob Lyttle celebrates scoring Ulster’s third try with team-mates during the Guinness Pro 14 game against Edinburgh at Murrayfield. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho
Edinburgh 7 Ulster 29
Ulster secured themselves a home quarter-final in the knockout stages of the Guinness Pro14 after demolishing Edinburgh at Murrayfield with a bonus-point win.
This was a performance that all the winning ingredients from powerful forward play, swift engagement in the contact area and suffocating defence behind the scrum that exposed Edinburgh’s lack of attacking ideas.
The return of Iain Henderson undoubtedly was a big factor in the Ulster’s winning performance, the Ireland and Lions secondrow setting the tone of Ulster’s forward play with commitment going forward and in defence.
Crucially the Ulster performance expunged the memory of last weekend’s horror story against Glasgow and will surely give Dan McFarland’s charges the confidence they need in the playoffs.
Ulster’s dynamic start featured powerful runs from Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale forced a penalty, which John Cooney knocked over.
Then after Marty Moore had been forced off injured, Stockdale put Ulster on the front foot with a clever kick that had Edinburgh in trouble on their own line. It ended with Jordi Murphy scrambling over for a try and Cooney converting to give the visitors a 10-0 advantage.
At the other end Jaco van der Walt saw a penalty kick rebound off the upright. The missed goal kick appeared to give further momentum to Ulster who enjoyed a sustained period of pressure in the Edinburgh red zone for most of the second quarter, which almost brought a try when Cooney broke clear.
It was desperate defence by Edinburgh and cost the home side Van der Walt with a shoulder injury. But a powerful charge by prop Pierre Schoeman helped to take Edinburgh into the Ulster 22, but despite pressure on the visitors’ line there was no dividend for the Murrayfield men.
The first half seemed to drawing to a tame close when Ulster produced a score from careful ball retention and then a massive pass by Billy Burns that gave right wing Robert Baloucoune room to race over in the corner for an unconverted try to give his side a 15-0 interval lead.
Ulster’s dominance continued in the second half against an Edinburgh side that appeared to have few tactical ideas. Inevitably Ulster’s growing confidence produced another score and this time it was crisp handling the involved Burns and Stockdale that put wing Rob Lyttle in for his side’s third try, converted from the touchline by Cooney.
Edinburgh’s humiliation was slightly reduced when replacement John Barclay dummied his way over for his side’s try, converted from wide out by Van der Walt’s replacement, Simon Hickey.
But in a final assault on the Edinburgh line Ulster grabbed their fourth try from powerful forward play that demolished the Edinburgh defence. Swift transfer of the ball then allowed Burns to cruise over for the score, Cooney adding the conversion to seal the bonus point.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 3 mins: J Cooney pen, 0-3; 12: J Murphy try, Cooney con, 0-10; 40: R Baloucoune try, 0-15; Half-time 0-15; 54: R Lyttle try, Cooney con, 0-22, 58: J Barclay try, S Hickey con, 7-22, 67: B Burns try, Cooney con, 7-29
EDINBURGH: D Graham; D Hoyland, M Bennett, M Scott, D Van der Merwe; J Van der Welt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, WP Nel; G Gilchrist B Toolis; M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata.
Replacements: S Hickey for Van der Welt (32 mins), G Taylor for Hoyland (44), S Berghan for Nel (45),J Barclay for Bradbury (49), A Dell for Schoeman (62), C Shiel for Pyrgos (63), R Ford for McInally, C Hunter-Hill for Toolis (both 68).
ULSTER: J Stockdale; R Baloucoune, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore; I Henderson, K Treadwell; N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee
Replacements: R Kane for Moore (9 mins), A Kernohan for Baloucoune (50), A O’Connor for Treadwell (62), S Reidy for Timoney (67), A Warwick for O’Sullivan 73, D Shanahan for Cooney, P Nelson for Stockdale (both 78), J Andrew for Herring (80).
Referee: N Owens (WRU)