Ulster forwards struggle to cope with Scarlets pack
Ulster were overtaken by the Scarlets in Conference B as they suffered a convincing defeat in Llanelli. Coach Dan McFarland was without Irish internationals Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison and Rob Herring and after taking the lead, his team struggled.
Uster’s forwards were second best against an impressive home pack in the first of what will be three meetings between these two teams over the next month.
Scrumhalf Dave Shanahan and his replacement Jonny Stewart scored in either half, but Ulster were second best throughout against a Scarlets outfit without 12 key men on duty with Wales.
Home tries came from Werner Kruger, Kieran Hardy, Kieron Fonotia and Tom Prydie in what was a comfortable home success.
After a poor opening 10 minutes, Ulster broke the deadlock with a fine try. A neat blindside move saw centre Louis Ludik link with wing Henry Speight and the Australia international passed back inside to give scrumhalf Shanahan an easy conversion.
Burns’ conversion was followed by a penalty from Jones and then the Scarlets’ first try. Jones kicked to the corner and although Ed Kennedy slipped, the ball was recycled and Kruger dived over from close range. Jones kicked the goal and Ulster were now stuck in reverse.
Only a superb tackle from Nick Timoney denied Scarlets a second try. Marc Jones’ outrageous back-door pass released Kieran Hardy, but the home scrum-half was scragged into touch. Scarlets did cross soon after, but Paul Asquith’s effort was ruled out by TMO Tim Hayes for obstruction in the build-up by Fonotia.
Ulster were living a charmed life, but Scarlets’ forward dominance soon paid off and it was Hardy who came up with another close-range score. There was still time for the superb Fonotia to break clear before the break for a fine try. One conversion from Jones sent Ulster to the break 22-7 down.
Scarlets had another try disallowed and Ulster centre James Hume was lucky to not be carded for a high tackle on Johnny McNicholl. It made little difference. Scarlets totally dominated territory and their bonus-point try arrived as with space out wide, Prydie benefitted in the right corner. Jones kicked the goal again and although Ulster got one back through Stewart, they couldn’t get back into it.
By the time the final quarter arrived, the game had long since been decided so the final 10 minutes were quiet.