We caught up with Ulster A for the first time this season in a preseason friendly against, our nearest rivals, Leinster at Malone RFC last night, Ulster coming away with a 15 – 12 win.
The match had all the hallmarks of a preseason game, lots of endeavour but also plenty of mistakes and if Ulster had shown a bit more composure they could probably have won this one with a degree of comfort.
As it was they had to rely on the trusty boot of Conor Rankin to knock over a last minute penalty to give Ulster the win.
In fairness, Ulster could have few complaints if Leinster had pinched it as it was two young, evenly matched, sides but Ulster’s power up front just about gave them the edge.
The visitors were the first to score with their pack working a penalty try, and a yellow card, from a driving maul following a line out close in.
However, it didn’t take Ulster long to draw even with a break from deep by Rankin, taken on by Ethan McIlroy and Tom Stewart, before Lewis Finlay broke for the line to send Ben Power clear, the Queen’s player heading straight for the posts. Rankin converted to tie the game at 7 – all just past the 15 minute mark.
Ulster went ahead about 4 minutes later after veteran prop Peter Cooper found the line after an attacking lineout maul. No conversion for this one and the teams turned round with Ulster enjoying a 12 – 7 lead.
With the winds at their backs Leinster enjoyed the bulk of territory and possession in the second half and a bit of zip appeared to have left the home sides play after the impressive Finlay was substituted at the break.
In a stop/start half of few thrills, Leinster were next to score, this time off a driving maul that went to completion, to tie the game at 12 – all with 20 minutes left to play.
The final quarter was brightened somewhat by a few runs from replacement Graham Curtis, who came on on the wing. Aside from that it was fairly forgettable until the closing minutes when Ulster put together enough sustained possession to force the winning penalty in front of the posts.
Rankin made no mistakes, with the final kick of the game, to give Ulster a 15 – 12 win.
Ulster A: Conor Rankin, Ethan McIlroy, Hayden Hyde, Ben Power, Rex Tinsley, Greg Hutley, Lewis Finlay, Callum Reid, Tom Stewart, Peter Cooper, Connor McMenamin, Bradley Luney, JJ McKee, David McCann, Azur Alson. Replacements: Clayton Milligan, Oscar Egan, Paul Mullan, Jack Regan, Matthew Agnew, Michael Stronge, Graham Curtis, Matthew Sands, Luke Pollock.