Ulster produced one of the finest away performances in recent years with a stunning 25-24 win over Scarlets at Parc-y-Scarlets.
Despite going three points down early on, tries from Jacob Stockdale, Henry Speight, Will Addison and Marcell Coetzee secured a memorable victory.
Rhys Patchell gave Scarlets the lead after two minutes with a penalty in front of the posts but Ulster responded strongly. Henry Speight gathered a chip through from Will Addison to give the Ulstermen great position inside the Scarlets 22. I was surprised Alexandre Ruiz didn’t go upstairs for a TMO check when it seemed Johnny McNicholl knocked the ball down, but John Cooney converted another penalty which was given for offside.
A wonderfully executed set piece move saw Jacob Stockdale finish from 50m. A nice shimmy from Will Addison beat his opposite number and gave Ulster an overlap. Stockdale gathered the ball defeated three Scarlets players on the way to the line.
Ulster had the Scarlets rattled in the first 20 minutes. Playing against the wind seemed to boost Ulster and catch the Scarlets off guard. The intent in Ulster’s play forced unusual errors from their midfield.
Scarlets were next on the board thanks to a try from Steff Evans. Good forward work created an overlap and the Welsh winger had an easy finish. However Ulster remained confident and kept playing to Dan McFarland’s game plan.
A great maul gave the away side the momentum in the 22m. Strong carrying from McCloskey and Coetzee tied the defence in and on the next phase Speight crossed in the corner.
Ulster picked up where they left off in the second half. Intense pressure forced four handling errors in a row from their hosts. Will Addison picked a magnificent line off John Cooney and the outside centre sailed in togive the away side a ten point lead.
A little bit of magic from Johnny McNicholl set up Steff Evans for his second try. The full back attracted the attention of two Ulster players before offloading to the winger. Patchell’s conversion made it a three point game. Despite being comfortable a lapse of concentration gifted the home side away back into the match.
The try bonus point was secured with 15 minutes left. A well worked move put Nick Timoney through and after recycled ball, quick hands from Billy Burns put Marcell Coetzee in at the corner.
Dan Davies gave Scarlets a glimmer of hope with two minutes left but rugged Ulster defence held them out and Stuart McCloskey stepped up withthe all important turnover.
Not many people gave Ulster a chance, including myself, but it was a truly sublime performance that has gifted an excellent opportunity at progressing to the next round. However Ulster need to retain their focus heading into next week as all of their good work up tonow will be undone if they fall to a loss.