Ulster rise above ran­cour

Prov­ince still in with a shot of a top-three fin­ish af­ter win over Glas­gow

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - MICHAEL SADLIER At Kingspan Sta­dium

How Ulster needed this. Five points were re­quired and duly de­liv­ered, though only in the last play through Nick Ti­money’s sec­ond try, to not only keep the prov­ince just about in the hunt for a top three fin­ish, but also, more vi­tally, take them be­yond be­ing over­hauled on the fi­nal week­end by Benet­ton.

And, what’s more, all the ran­cour which has en­gulfed Ulster, both on and off the field, no­tably lifted at a buzzing Kingspan – and not just be­cause this was an ap­par­ent home send-off for the long-serv­ing Tommy Bowe and Paul Mar­shall ahead of their re­tire­ments, while the de­part­ing Charles Pi­u­tau may also not be seen again.

With fourth in Con­fer­ence B now se­cured – and a Cham­pi­ons Cup play-off at home to the Ospreys look­ing likely – Ulster can en­vis­age a pos­si­ble third-place fin­ish, but only if they pro­duce a bonus-point win at Thomond Park on Satur­day and if Glas­gow beat Ed­in­burgh, who are four ahead of Ulster but with two more wins in the bag, and deny them any re­turn from their clash.

Though tast­ing knock­out rugby in the Pro14 looks a tall or­der, Ulster’s op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Bryn Cun­ning­ham was just thank­ful the prov­ince, af­ter three straight wins, are still in with a shot, never mind the fact that they can­not lose their grip of a fourth. “We’re now look­ing for­ward to go­ing down there,” he said of the trip to Mun­ster, who are in the knock­out stages.

Three good wins

“We’ve built on three good wins, the con­fi­dence is up and hope­fully if we get another day like that [weather-wise] and play some good rugby, then who knows? And hope­fully Glas­gow do us a favour as well,” Cun­ning­ham said. “I think that says a lot about a squad that has been low on con­fi­dence through­out the sea­son. The pres­sure has been on [them] for the last three weeks, but they have de­liv­ered,” he added, say­ing the process to ap­point a new coach is pro­gress­ing well.

Ulster – miss­ing Iain Hen­der­son from the start­ing line-up due to the birth of the cou­ple’s first child, a daugh­ter – looked in trou­ble af­ter John Cooney’s early try, con­ver­sion and penalty had helped put them 10-0 up only for the War­riors – who are al­ready guar­an­teed a home semi-fi­nal – to draw level, with Cal­lum Gib­bins get­ting his first touch­down. But two late first-half penal­ties from Cooney nudged Ulster 16-10 up at the break and though Gib­bins man­aged a sec­ond try to close the gap to one point af­ter 47 min­utes, the re­main­der, with Stu­art McCloskey, Jacob Stock­dale and Charles Pi­u­tau all prom­i­nent, be­longed to Ulster.

Ti­money got over first and then, on the hour, Seán Reidy did like­wise – Johnny McPhillips con­vert­ing Ti­money’s first. With the clock red it was ap­pro­pri­ately for Bowe to pro­vide the as­sist for Ti­money to wrig­gle over for that vital bonus point.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: BRIAN LIT­TLE/INPHO

Ulster’s Nick Ti­money crosses for his side’s bonus point try at Kingspan Sta­dium, Belfast, on Satur­day.

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