EARLY XMAS BONUS
Four-try Ulster put Scarlets to sword Scarlets 24 Ulster 25
IRELAND’S Jacob Stockdale made it another try-scoring super show as Ulster put a huge hole in Scarlets’ Heineken Champions Cup hopes.
Stockdale, whose touchdown helped Ireland beat world champions New Zealand last month, struck in the first half at Parc-y-scarlets to underpin a bonuspoint victory.
Fellow wing Henry Speight, centre Will Addison and No.8 Marcell Coetzee also scored, with scrum-half John Cooney kicking a penalty and conversion to leave Ulster level on points with pool pace-setters Racing 92.
But Scarlets, semi-finalists last season, face exit after a third successive defeat as two Steff Evans tries, a late Dan Davis try, a Rhys Patchell penalty and two conversions plus Dan Jones’ conversion, proved in vain.
The teams meet again in Belfast on Friday and the momentum is with Ulster, whose remaining fixtures also include a potentially pivotal home clash against Racing next month.
Patchell and Cooney exchanged early penalties before Ulster hit the front by attacking from a scrum inside their own half. Addison easily rounded Wales centre Jonathan Davies who found Stockdale and he showed his class with a blistering finish to a sweeping 60-metre move.
But the Scarlets forwards moved up a gear, driving deep into Ulster’s 22 and setting up an imposing attacking platform from which Evans claimed a close-range try that Patchell converted. Scarlets’ lead only lasted eight minutes, though, as a poor Patchell clearance kick allowed Ulster the chance to run possession back.
After some patient build-up work Speight crossed for his team’s second try and secured a 13-10 interval advantage.
Ulster extended their lead 10 minutes after the restart when Cooney found Addison with a defence-splitting pass and the centre finished effortlessly (inset) before Cooney’s conversion opened up a commanding lead. But Evans set up the final quarter when he sprinted over for his second try, with Patchell’s conversion cutting the gap to 20-17.
Yet Ulster responded immediately, though, as Coetzee went over in the corner and a stoppage-time Davis try that Jones converted brought nothing more than a losing bonus point for the hosts.
LETHAL Stockdale finishes a swift move for his try last night