Ulster’s fourth bonus point win puts them top of URC table again

Will Addison worryingly stretchered off in win over Lions ahead of November Tests

Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy in action against the Lions at Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy in action against the Lions at Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Ulster 26 Lions 10

Though it was another performance which ebbed and flowed in terms of its fluidity, and accuracy, Ulster are still doing the business and took ownership of a fourth bonus point win to hit the top of the URC table again.

Though the Lions caused them problems, as they ended their European mini-tour, Ulster always looked to have more. Just as long as they retained their composure, which was by no means always the case in this encounter, which also saw Will Addison worryingly stretchered off with the November Tests now in view.

On a more positive note, Nick Timoney put in yet another lung-busting effort which was rewarded by a brace of tries and it was appropriate that he claimed the bonus point try six minutes after the hour.

Indeed, Ulster only led 12-10 at half-time after Timoney’s first and a touchdown from James Hume before a scrappy enough remainder saw Matty Rea claim try number three before Timoney struck again to seal the deal.

After two penalties had been put into the corner, Ulster pulled off a lineout move when Rob Herring’s short throw to Andy Warwick allowed the prop to feed Timoney who charged through at the front to touch down while easily brushing a startled Lions defence aside.

However, even though Nathan Doak missed the extras, Ulster looked ready to push on for further points but their failure to do so, due to handling errors and poor decision making, allowed the Lions an opportunity which they took from their first attack of significance.

A lineout in Ulster’s 22, after James Hume was hounded into touch by Sibahle Maxwane from a kick through which had originated from the home side’s mistake, allowed Ruhan Straeuli take the long throw and smash through a first-up tackle which, in turn, resulted in Stean Pienaar stepping inside on the opposite wing to score.

EW Viljoen’s conversion put the Lions 7-5 in front three minutes before the 20 minute mark and sent Ulster a warning that inaccuracy would be punished.

Though Ulster continued to huff and puff - one knock-on by David McCann looking particularly profligate - they finally did put together a sustained period of pressure just after the half hour with McCann this time playing his part and Billy Burns’ bursting through to create the all-important momentum.

The upshot was that space was eventually found on the edge and a long pass allowed Hume jog in to score with Doak slotting the extras.

But, again, Ulster were unable to avoid conceding more points with Rob Herring penalised at the breakdown and Viljoen stepping up to hammer a long range penalty through the sticks with just a minute remaining in the half which allowed the Lions close the home team’s lead to 12-10 as the teams trooped off.

The second half was only four minutes old, with Ulster on top, when a collision involving Addison saw him stretchered off for what could be yet another lengthy period on the sidelines.

Response

Ulster responded almost immediately and had try number three sewn up when a tap and go resulted in Matty Rea being driven over the line with Doak converting again.

Though this score seemed to lift Ulster in terms of kickstarting some continuity, once again, it failed to translate onto the scoreboard and the sight of Michael Lowry saving a threatening situation in the backfield was yet another reminder that this game was not entirely secured.

Ulster then should have had their bonus point when Tom O’Toole’s pass to Alan O’Connor sent the lock charging for the line only to be held up short with Doak trying to wriggle over when a pass ought to have been thrown.

The bonus point still looked inevitable and came when Timoney dotted down for the second time from a close-in drive with Doak converting to put the home team 26-10 ahead and ensuring the result was definitely safe.

ULSTER: W Addison; C Gilroy, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy; B Burns, N Doak; A Warwick, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, S Carter (capt); Matty Rea, N Timoney, D McCann.

Replacements: B Roberts for Herring 58mins, E O’Sullivan for Warwick 52mins, R Kane for O’Toole 67mins, K Treadwell for Carter 44mins, S Reidy for McCann 58mins, D Shanahan for Doak 74mins, M Lowry for Addison 45mins, B Moxham for Moore 74mins.

LIONS: D Roussouw; S Pienaar, M Rass, B Odendaal (capt), R Maxwane; EW Viljoen, A Warner; S Sithole, J Visagie, C Sadie; R Schoeman, R Nothnagel; S Sangweni, V Tshituka, R Straeuli.

Replacements: PJ Botha for Visagie 65mins, R Dreyer for Sithole 49mins, A Ntlabakanye for Sadie 61mins, W van der Sluys for mins, E Tshituka for Straeuli 61mins, M van den Berg for Warner 65mins, W Simelane for Viljoen 74mins.

Referee: M Adamson (SRU)

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