I’d predicted a tight game and I had suggested that whichever team scored first would go on to win and that proved to be the case. I’d expected Ulster to be fired up for this one, to come storming out and set the tempo, but it was Scarlets who enjoyed the opening encounters with Michael Collins scoring the opening try in the 5th minute.
Ulster (17) 20
TRY: Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall
CON: Paddy Jackson (2)
PEN: Paddy Jackson
DG: Paddy Jackson
Scarlets (15) 21
TRY: Michael Collins (2)
CON: Aled Thomas
PEN: Aled Thomas (3)
Scarlets increased their lead to eight points in the 14th minute with Aled Thomas adding a penalty to the unconverted try but Ulster finally got their names on the scoreboard when Paddy Jackson slotted over a drop goal two minutes later.
Craig Gilroy continued with his rich vein of form to carve out a cracking try down the right on the 20th minute and with Jackson converting Ulster led 10 – 8 as the teams went into the second quarter. Unfortunately the lead lasted barely two minutes as Collins crossed for his second and with Thomas on target with the conversion the visitors took a 10 – 15 lead.
Still more excitement to come in this fluctuating first half as Luke Marshall squeezed over in the corner on the 36th minute and Jackson landed the difficult conversion to give Ulster a 17 – 15 lead at the break.
The excitement dissipated somewhat in a fairly boring second half with Thomas adding two penalties to Jackson’s one. Ulster spurned a few penalty chances early on in pursuit of a four try bonus point but a couple of misfiring mauls put paid to that and the visitors held on for their one point win.
Ulster: Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Jacob Stockdale, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall, Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Ricky Lutton, Alan O’Connor, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Johnny Murphy, Kyle McCall, Bronson Ross, Pete Browne, Clive Ross, Ruan Pienaar, Ian Humphreys, Sam Arnold.
Despite the loss, and a few individual errors, I’m still reasonably happy with what Les Kiss is trying to do. I believe he was right to start Paul Marshall, to move the big Scarlets pack around, and I believe they were right to spurn a few kickable penalties in pursuit of a bonus point as that is what a championship winning team would do.
He has continued to develop the depth of the squad, with some success, and keeps his focus on his long term plan rather than short term gain. In that respect he reminds me very much of Mark McCall and he didn’t turn out too badly!
A few individual errors in defence and a lack of punch up front lost this battle but this is a long term strategy to build an “Ulster Way”. Be patient friends, it will come!
While you are waiting for the “Ulster Way” to arrive take time out to enjoy our match day pictures. 😆