This wasn’t just a win, this was an Ulster performance that had me on my feet shouting throughout as Ulster completely outplayed, out thought and out fought their opponents to such an extent that if it had been a boxing match the ref would have pulled it up after 45 minutes when Payne strolled over for Ulster’s third.
I wonder what my neighbours in Galway thought as I shouted, “Oh feck me! Yes! Yes! Yes!” as the fantastic Payne dummied and meandered to the try line but by then I was past caring ! Brilliant!
We’ve all been saying that when this Ulster team click they are going to give someone a hiding and tonight we came closest to that, against quality opposition. Amazingly it was still far from perfect, with Rory’s darts a bit of a worry, but Ulster’s defence was so fantastic, with Rory foremost here, that they could still be playing this morning and I doubt that Northampton would have crossed the line.
Ulster showed their intent from the start with Trimble crossing after nine minutes. A huge drive from a line out was driven on by Wallace and the ball was recycled quickly to Jackson who chipped behind the defence for Trimble to snatch it up and dot it down in one move. 0 – 5.
Lambe and Jackson swapped penalties around the twenty minute mark and as Ulster began to dominate all aspects of the game a delightful kick from Payne set them up with a lineout on the Northampton 5 meter line. An overthrow from Hartley was snapped up by Henry and with the ball moved quickly from side to side and a powerfull surge from Henderson set up a huge overlap out right for Wallace to send Bowe over in the corner to take the score to 3 – 13.
Lamb added a penalty before the break to give the home side a glimmer of a chance with the half time score reading 6 – 13.
Early posturing from the home side at the start of the second half was quickly shown as the sham it was when Payne went over for Ulster’s third try on the 45th minute. Payne caught the ball just outside his own 22 setting up a ruck. The ball was moved on by Cave who sliced through the defence taking it deep into Northampton’s half. A couple of quick recycles and Trimble spotted the space to feed Payne who threw a ridiculous dummy before sauntering over the line. Jackson converted to take the score to 6 – 20 and the game was effectively over.
Northampton resorted to bully boy tactics to try and rescue something from the game with the despicable Hartley prominent but these were swept aside with due contempt by the Ulster side who added the icing on the cake with the bonus point try in the final minute.
A steal on the ground by Tuohy was moved on by Luke Marshall and Chris Henry before Payne had another dart at the line before passing to Tuohy for the big second row to flop over in the corner.
Final Score: Saints 6 Ulster 25.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble, Patrick Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (c), Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Nigel Brady, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Robbie Diack, Nick Williams, Paul Marshall, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy.
Northampton: Ben Foden, Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Dom Waldouck, Tom Elliott, Ryan Lamb, Martin Roberts, Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley (c), Brian Mujati, Samu Manoa, Courtney Lawes, Calum Clark, Tom Wood, GJ van Velze. Replacements: Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Paul Doran-Jones, Mark Sorenson, Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson, Stephen Myler, Tom May.