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2020-21 Edinburgh Rugby PRO14 Provincial Rugby Men Ulster Rugby

PRO14: Edinburgh 14 Ulster 43

Ulster recorded their eighth win of the season running in seven tries against a heavily depleted Edinburgh side.

John Andrew scored a hat trick, John Cooney added a brace while Jordi Murphy and Stewart Moore added one try each.

Edinburgh (7) 14

TRY: Jack Blain (2)

CON: Nathan Chamberlain (2)

Ulster (19) 43

TRY: Stewart Moore, John Andrew (3), John Cooney (2), Jordi Murphy

CON: John Cooney (4)

The visitors held a 19-0 lead shortly before the end of the first half but a nervy opening 20 of the second period saw Edinburgh run in two tries through Jack Blain to make it a five-point game.

Jamie Farndale thought he’d leveled the game when a Nathan Chamberlain penalty bounced off the upright, but the Edinburgh winger was in a offside position when the ball was kicked. It was a let off but this was the wake up call the northern province needed as they proceeded to run in four unanswered tries in the last 20 minutes.

Moore has filled Stuart McCloskey’s void superbly and he scored his third try in three games after only four minutes when he combined with Andrew and Cooney down the right wing.

All three of the hooker’s tries were from the maul and Andrew scored his first midway through the first half. Cooney added the third with a snipe five minutes later.

Ulster enjoyed complete domination for the opening 30 minutes of the match. Michael Lowry, James Hume and Matt Faddes enjoyed plenty of space created by Ulster dummy runners in the channels between Edinburgh’s wingers and outside centre.

For 30 minutes Ulster wobbled. They made uncharacteristic errors as Edinburgh put them under pressure for the first time however they rallied together and Murphy crossed for his first try of the season. With the bonus point secured, the floodgates opened. Cooney ran in a very well worked second score while Andrew completed his hat trick with two tries in the last ten minutes of the match.

Teams

Edinburgh: Jack Blain, Eroni Sau, James Johnstone, Chris Dea, Jamie Farndale, Nathan Chamberlain, Henry Pyrgos, Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Lee Roy Atalifo, Andries Ferreira, Andrew Davidson, Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Ally Miller. Replacements: Mike Willemse, Sam Grahamslaw, Dan Gamble, Jamie Hodgson, Bill Mata, Connor Boyle, Charlie Shiel, Alec Coombes.

Ulster: Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Ian Madigan, John Cooney, Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee. Replacements: Brad Roberts, Kyle McCall, Gareth Milasinovich, David O’Connor, David McCann, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Aaron Sexton

Who stood out?

That was close to the best performance we’ve seen from John Andrew in an Ulster jersey. He possesses a decent bit of pace in the loose, evident when he set up the opening score. Having seen limited game time in the last two seasons – he’s played only 569 minutes since September 2018 – we’re seeing the best of the former Ballymena Academy player as he battles for the replacement hooker jersey with Adam McBurney.

There was a debut for Rainey Old Boy Brad Roberts who played five solid minutes winning a turnover and coming within inches of a debut try. Other good performances include Sam Carter, Ian Madigan, Alan O’Connor while it continues to baffle me how Cooney hasn’t been included in Camp Ireland over the Autumn Nations Cup window.

Is the PRO14 competitive?

Ulster rack up their sixth try bonus point (TBP) and eighth win in eight games with the thumping over Edinburgh while Leinster have TBP wins in all of their seven games. Munster are also unbeaten with seven wins.

This has led to calls from IRFU Performance Director to express his desire to bring South African sides Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers to the competition. The provinces have always been towards the top of the competition, but the gap has widened because of the international window and superior strength in depth due to a significantly higher budget.

Dipping into the South African market is a necessity in terms of unlocking more money for a competition that does not generate the same interest as the Gallagher Premiership and TOP14 leagues. However hamstringing the league for 1/3 of a season due to clashing international matches and therefore producing extremely one sided games is an issue that Pro Rugby LTD needs to address.

On the whole, I still think Leinster are ahead of Ulster and Munster by a comfortable margin whereas I think the starting XV’s of Glasgow Warriors, Scarlets and Edinburgh are a match for Ulster and Munster. In an ideal world I would have less international matches but that is not realistic in today’s climate as the international game brings the majority of the funding to the IRFU especially as the governing body posted a loss recently due to COVID.

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