Ulster miss kicks and their chance to go top

Paddy Jackson leaves his kicking boots at home as Edinburgh make Ulster pay the penalty

Edinburgh’s Ross Rennie and Netani Talei tackle Ulster’s Robbie Diack during last night’s RaboDirect Pro12 game at Murrayfield. Photograph: Graham Stuart/Inpho

Edinburgh’s Ross Rennie and Netani Talei tackle Ulster’s Robbie Diack during last night’s RaboDirect Pro12 game at Murrayfield. Photograph: Graham Stuart/Inpho

 

Edinburgh 14 Ulster 8: Almost four weeks after Ireland's defeat to Scotland, the Murrayfield goal-kicking jinx kicked in, as again international outhalf Paddy Jackson proved fallible in front of the posts to kill off Ulster’s hopes of regaining top spot in the RaboDirect Pro12 league at Murrayfield last night.

Jackson missed three crucial kicks at goal early in the second half in contrast to Edinburgh's outhalf Piers Francis who landed three out of four attempts to win the match for the beleaguered Scottish side, whose top player, ironically was the Ireland-born but not longer eligible scrumhalf, Seán Kennedy.

Both sides scored one try apiece but it was the ability of Francis to nail his kicks and conversely the failure of his opposite number that determined the outcome of the game.

On a bitterly cold night Ulster elected to play with the wind advantage but opted not to use the breeze when they were awarded a penalty just inside the Edinburgh half.

Ulster showed their intent to run the ball with a break from Paul Marshall and when the ball was shipped to Michael Allen the winger seemed to be on course for the line, only for the Scotland A and Limerick born scrumhalf Sean Kennedy to produce a stunning tap tackle.

Territorial gains
Edinburgh, after a slow and nervous start that perhaps reflected their position in the table, began to make territorial gains and after a late tackle on Francis, he kicked a penalty to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Then a second penalty by Francis extended Edinburgh's lead by a further three points but just before the break brought first points for Ulster with his first success in front of goal to leave the Northern province trailing 3-6 at the break.

Ulster were forced to replace Johann Muller by Nick Williams at half-time but that did not blunt their attacking intent at the beginning of the second half. Despite promising phases Ulster’s bonus was a kick at goal, but this time Jackson was wide of the target.

The Ireland outhalf then pulled a second attempt at goal wide of the posts and when the hosts were penalised at the contact Jackson, this time with an easier shot, suffered a third loss of precision.

Edinburgh immediately gained confidence and launched an attack that took thems into the Ulster 22. From a scrum number 8 Netali Talei broke free before supplying the scoring pass to flanker Stuart McInally. Francis missed the simple conversion but the hosts were sitting on a 11-3 lead.

Ulster hit back with a period of pressure that brought its reward from a clever grubber kick by Jarred Payne that forced a five metre scrum.

Ulster tails were up and when Allen put Payne through a gap the fullback put in a clever ground-hugging kick that gave Andrew Trimble a simple try in the corner that proved too difficult for Jackson to convert.

Edinburgh responded positively with strong rugby that all but brought a try when Francis made a dash for the line on the end of some deft handling, only for the outhalf to spill the ball.

Ulster replied with excellent handling but they were thwarted by turnover ball that turned the game towards the hosts and moreso when they gained a penalty award in the visitors’ 22, giving Francis an easy three points dividend.

Ulster tried desperately to salvage the match but their attempts to run the ball were met with defiant defence and when the ball was spilled in the tackle referee Leighton Hodges signalled the end of the match and the end of the visitors' attempts to maintain their winning momentum.