Cham­pi­ons tamed by late Andrew try

The Rugby Paper - - Guinness Pro14 - ■ By RO­NAN O’BRIEN

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.

PIC­TURE: Huw Evans

In front: Johnny Mc­Ni­choll runs in his try for Scarlets

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