Champions tamed by late Andrew try
CHAMPIONS Scarlets fell to their first defeat of the season as Ulster tamed their rampant final quarter, but captain Ken Owens insists his side will not deviate from their attacking tactics.
After Ulster bossed a penalty kicking duel for an hour, it seemed as if Johnny McNicholl and Jon Davies tries had edged the points in the direction of Wayne Pivac’s side only for John Andrew to score the winner three minutes from time.
“Our philosophy doesn’t change – we’ve got a freedom to play, test ourselves and test our skills and we did that,” said Owens, who made his first start since his summer Lions tour.
“We got an away bonus point, a point that we didn’t get last year and it’s still tight at the top.
“I thought our defence was pretty good in the first half but we defended too much and spent too much time in our 22. There were times in the second half where we overplayed and had too many errors, which put us under pressure.”
For Ulster this is a third win of the season, and it was the boot of John Cooney that kept them ahead for the most part, while the tactical kicking of Wallaby star Christian Lealiifano meant they played in the right areas.
Jacob Stockdale responded to Scarlets’ opening try with his own at the end of a flowing move just after the hour, but Andrew’s second ever try for the province sealed victory.
“We’re absolutely thrilled we put in a performance like that, particularly towards the back end of the game,” said Kiss.
“They hurt us a couple of times, but it impressed me that the boys had the bravery to stand up and keep fighting. That’s an important characteristic that we’ll continue to build on.”
There was plenty of positives for Ulster, but a hamstring injury means captain Rory Best is a major doubt for their opening Champions Cup tie with Wasps.
Best showed up at Kingspan Stadium on crutches following a training ground injury, and with four to six weeks estimated for his recovery, Ulster will likely line up without their captain for the October 13 tussle.
There was a sombre moment before kick-off as the Ulster crowd paused in silenced to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of their former player Nevin Spence. After that reflection Ulster were understandably slow out of the blocks, and after Luke Marshall infringed, Leigh Halfpenny slotted the third minute penalty from the right.
The champions looked sharp and they deserved their lead with Tadhg Beirne a standout in the second row. But after 19 minutes Cooney pulled Ulster level from the tee, while he landed two more before the interval for a 9-3 lead.
Ulster continued to pile forward, but Beirne continued his amazing display with a brilliant double turnover in the space of 30 seconds to keep them at bay.
Cooney then extended Ulster’s lead to nine points before Halfpenny hit back for Scarlets, and 19 minutes from time, a Hadleigh Parkes break was finished off by McNicholl for the lead.
Stockdale’s try pushed Ulster ahead, but Scarlets retook the lead four minutes later when Davies scored, only for Andrew to run in the winner at the death.
In front: Johnny McNicholl runs in his try for Scarlets