Ulster seal a spot in the Challenge Cup quarter finals with a comprehensive eight try victory over Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop yesterday evening.
Sean Reidy and Rob Herring both scored twice while Stuart McCloskey, Alby Mathewson, Billy Burns and a fine solo effort from Michael Lowry was the pick of the bunch.
The hosts did have a second string out as their priorities lie with the Gallagher Premiership, but it was pleasing to see Ulster kick on and record their second half century and sixth score over 40 this season.
TRY: Tom Lawday, Jack Kenningham, Jordan Els
CON: Brett Herron (3)
TRY: Stuart McCloskey, Rob Herring (2), Sean Reidy (2), Michael Lowry, Billy Burns, Alby Mathewson
CON: John Cooney (5), Ian Madigan (2)
PEN: John Cooney
McCloskey’s try and a John Cooney penalty inside the first 12 minutes settled Ulster’s early jitters. Dominant forward carrying tied in Harlequins defenders and created space outside the 13 channel for Robert Baloucoune to carry up to the five metre line with McCloskey providing the final touch.
Dominance up front was prevalent all night with Herring and Reidy contributing three of the eight tries from rolling mauls against a side who have a handy maul defence under the stewardship of Jerry Flannery.
Jordi Murphy was sent to the sin bin with half an hour gone and despite Ulster holding a comfortable 24 point lead we’ve seen in other matches this season that this can give the opposition some momentum leading to a few scores conceded. While Tom Lawday did cross in the next play, Ulster responded with a super individual effort from Michael Lowry.
Note Robert Baloucoune (14) and James Hume‘s (13) shielding of Lowry prevented the Quins’ chasers from putting the fullback under pressure and created space for him to exploit. An unsuccessful conversion left the score during the sin bin period 7-5 to the hosts.
Nevertheless the forwards asserted their control in the second half with Herring grabbing his second on 55 minutes before excellent defensive pressure forced Brett Herron into a loose pass which was gleefully intercepted by Billy Burns. Further scores from Alby Mathewson and a second from Sean Reidy rounded off the scoreline despite two consolation tries from Jack Kennington and Jordan Els.
HARLEQUINS: Tyrone Green, Luke Northmore, James Lang, Paul Lisike, Nathan Earle, Brett Heron, Scott Steele, Santiago Garcia Botta, Elia Elia, Will Collier, Hugh Tizard, George Hammond, Archie White, Jack Kenningham, Tom Lawday (C). Replacements: George Head, Jordan Els, Simon Kerrod, Tevita Cavubati, Matas Jurevicius, Jack Stafford, Ben Tapuai, Ross Chisholm.
ULSTER: Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Nick Timoney. Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.
Onto Northampton (A)
A dramatic comeback from 22-3 down with 30 minutes gone saw Northampton Saints defeat the Dragons thanks to a Tom Collins try with six minutes to go. The Dragons will be wondering how they squandered an 18 point lead even though Saints spent 10 minutes with two men in the bin. A third yellow card was to follow and they must have been for cynical infringements as the away side only conceded eight penalties.
Saints named a rotated side but not to the same extent has Harlequins. Nick Isiekwe, Tom Wood, Alex Waller and Sam Matevesi did not feature while Dan Biggar, Owen Franks, George Furbank, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans and Matt Proctor were a few of the high profile names on the injury roster last week.
They were strengthened with the presence of Taqele Naiyarovoro, Rory Hutchinson, Mike Haywood, Fraser Dingwall, Ollie Sleightholme and Teimana Harrison. Obviously they could go full strength against Ulster, recognising that it is a winnable game in a competition which they would back themselves to go the distance.
It’ll be a much stiffer challenge but it’s one that I believe that this buoyed Ulster side can overcome.