Ulster beat Sharks to secure home URC quarter-final

Hosts hold out late surge to beat South Africans at the Kingspan Stadium

Ulster 24 Sharks 21

UIster did what they needed to do in terms of securing a home quarter-final though a late surge from the Sharks saw a 24-7 lead reduced to just three points.

Tries from Michael Lowry, Stuart McCloskey and James Hume, all converted by John Cooney got Ulster over the line against a Sharks side who only came to life in the closing minutes of a game they also needed to win - though the bonus point could prove valuable.

Despite both sides throwing the ball around with almost abandon, the opening points came from the tee via Cooney’s 16th minute penalty. Ten minutes later, Ulster had the first try of the game, the score coming off a penalty which was put to the corner. Even though Ulster attempted to maul, they moved the ball to McCloskey who managed to free possession and Hume’s pass to Billy Burns allowed the outhalf throw a huge pass to Ethan McIlroy on the left wing.

McIlroy’s inside pass to Lowry put the fullback through for a score which was converted by Cooney and that was it scoring wise in the first half - Ulster trooped off with a 10-0 lead.

Just three minutes into the new half it became 17-0 through a mighty McCloskey run which Cooney converted.

Though the Sharks reduced the deficit to 17-7 after newly arrived substitute Ntuthuko Mchunu surged over and Bosch converted, Ulster sealed the deal with a fast response. Robert Baloucoune linked up with Cooney to create a run-in for Hume.

Cooney’s conversion took it to 24-7 though a late Marius Louw try and Boeta Chamberlain conversion closed it to 24-14 and he then converted again when Grant Williams ran in from distance. But Ulster did enough to come away with the win.

ULSTER: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McIlroy; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, T O'Toole; A O'Connor, I Henderson (capt); Marcus Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: S Moore for Hume 30-41 mins, R Lyttle for Lowry 31 mins, E O’Sullivan for Warwick, G Milasinovich for O’Toole, K Treadwell for O’Connor all 55 mins, Matty Rea for Vermeulen 66 mins, J Andrew for Herring 75mins, N Doak for Cooney 78mins.

SHARKS: A Fassi; W Kok, L Am, M Louw, M Mapimpi; C Bosch, J Hendrikse; O Nche, B Mbonambi, T du Toit (capt); R van Heerden, R Hugo; S Kolisi, H Venter, P Buthelezi.

Replacements: N Mchunu for Nche, H Andrews for Hugo, G Williams for Hendrikse all 59mins, K van Vuuren for Mbonambi 65mins, K Mchunu for du Toit 71 mins, J Labuschagne for Buthelezi, B Chamberlain for Bosch both 74 mins.

Referee: B Blain (SRU)