Sec­ond-half on­slaught helps Ul­ster com­plete Ir­ish dou­ble

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Kate Rowan at Kingspan Sta­dium

Ir­ish prov­inces outscored Premier­ship clubs 12 tries to two on the open­ing week­end of the Cham­pi­ons Cup. Eight, of course, came from Le­in­ster in their Fri­day-night blitz of Wasps. How­ever, Ul­ster con­trib­uted three to this tally as they dom­i­nated the sec­ond half, with Le­ices­ter’s sole try com­ing late on by Manu Tuilagi.

Af­ter a set-piece heavy open­ing 40 min­utes due to the rem­nants of Storm Callum, which had blighted the Ir­ish coast, a George Ford penalty put Le­ices­ter 3-0 up. How­ever, Ford was at the cen­tre of two mo­ments that changed the com­plex­ion of the game.

First, the fly-half was sent to the sin­bin af­ter 20 min­utes. Dur­ing the spell that Le­ices­ter were down to 14 men, they looked quite com­posed. They were on the back foot at times but the gelling of the mid­field part­ner­ship of Tuilagi and Kyle East­mond helped to thwart the Ul­ster at­tack, as did the greasy ball. Just be­fore half-time, the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional at­tempted a drop kick that was dis­rupted by Ul­ster and Ire­land cap­tain Rory Best.

In­terim Le­ices­ter head coach Ge­or­dan Mur­phy rued this missed chance to go 6-0 ahead.

“I thought our de­fence was re­ally good and I was re­ally pleased with us hav­ing that lead at half-time. I was dis­ap­pointed we didn’t get the drop goal just be­fore half time,” he said. “I thought it was a good de­ci­sion from our guys but just a lit­tle bit of un­tidi­ness be­tween nine and 10.”

Ul­ster re­turned look­ing de­ter­mined to put a frus­trat­ing first half be­hind them. Le­ices­ter’s poor dis­ci­pline meant they gave away two penal­ties in quick suc­ces­sion which gave Ul­ster the ad­van­tage to score from a driv­ing maul with lock Alan O’Connor push­ing over for his side’s first try.

It ap­peared to be two tries in two min­utes for the hosts as Iain Hen­der­son crashed over but ref­eree Pas­cal Gauzere dis­al­lowed it due to a for­ward pass from scrum-half John Cooney in the build-up af­ter con­sult­ing the tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial.

Af­ter a raft of Tigers re­place­ments, Ul­ster were clin­i­cal as Will Ad­di­son crossed just shy of the hour.

As rain be­gan to fall in sheets, Ul­ster took con­trol. Mur­phy con­ceded that once the hosts went two tries ahead his side faced a near-im­pos­si­ble task. “At 14-3 down, the game is ef­fec­tively dead be­cause the con­di­tions closed in. Ul­ster killed the game and made it re­ally dif­fi­cult for us. We prob­a­bly turned the ball around three or four times in Ul­ster’s 22, which isn’t good enough.”

Ire­land wing Ja­cob Stock­dale streaked passed the Tigers de­fence with less than 10 min­utes on the clock. As Ul­ster tried to seal a bonus-point try, they lost fo­cus and Le­ices­ter ben­e­fited with a try from Tuilagi but it was too lit­tle too late.

Scores 0-3 Ford pen; 5-3 O’Connor try; 7-3 Cooney con; 12-3 Ad­di­son try; 14-3 Cooney con; 17-3 Cooney pen; 22-3 Stock­dale try; 24-3 Cooney con; 24-8 Tuilagi try; 24-10 Ford con. Ul­ster M Lowry; C Gil­roy, W Ad­di­son; S McCloskey (A Ker­nohan 75), J Stock­dale; B Burns (A Cur­tis 39), J Cooney; A War­wick (E O’Sul­li­van 50), R Best (cap­tain)(A McBur­ney 73), R Kane (M Moore 33), A O’Connor, I Hen­der­son, M Coet­zee, J Mur­phy (S Reidy 50), M Ti­money. Le­ices­ter J Holmes, A Thomp­stone, M Tuilagi (G Owen 78), K East­mond (M Toomua 57), J Olowofela, G Ford, B Youngs (S Har­ri­son 57), G Bate­man (D Feao 62), T Youngs (capt) (T Polota-Nau 53), D Cole (J Heyes 69), M Wil­liams, H Wells, G Thomp­son, B O’Connor, S Kala­ma­foni. Ref­eree Pas­cal Gauzere (France).

Un­stop­pable: Ja­cob Stock­dale scores Ul­ster’s third try against Le­ices­ter

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