An Ian Madigan penalty in the last play of the game secured Ulster’s first Rainbow Cup win in their final game.
It was a free-scoring game with ten different try scorers contributing ten tries in a lively affair that also saw four yellow cards. James Hume, Iain Henderson, Stuart McCloskey, Adam McBurney and Rob Lyttle crossed for the visitors.
Edinburgh (12) 31
TRY: Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Pierre Schoeman, Cammy Hutchinson
CON: Blair Kinghorn (3)
Ulster (26) 34
TRY: James Hume, Iain Henderson, Stuart McCloskey, Adam McBurney, Rob Lyttle
CON: Ian Madigan (3)
PEN: Ian Madigan
Ulster made a poor start conceding two tries inside the opening seven minutes to Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn. Two deserved yellow cards to Hamish Watson and WP Nel saw the momentum shift in favour of Ulster after Hume’s second try of the season. Henderson scored his third try in four games to give the away side the lead for the first time in the match.
Both sides had nothing to play for and it had the feeling that it was a tick box exercise at the end of the season. Ulster played some nice rugby but also looked vulnerable under sustained pressure in defence. We saw the departing Kyle McCall, Adam McBurney and Matt Faddes get plenty of touches of the ball in unusual areas. McCall held up the scrum well in the first half, winning a couple of penalties against the seasoned Scottish international WP Nel. Alby Mathewson came on in the second half for his final appearance in a white shirt after a stellar career and short tenure in Belfast.
At times the attack was a little unstructured which provided the opportunity for Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson to poach at the breakdown. Ulster conceded eight turnovers on Saturday, with the Scottish flankers contributing three of them.
A loose game suited Ulster with centres Hume and McCloskey impressing with the ball in hand. The Bangorman crossed for an excellent team try off turnover ball:
McBurney benefitted from a strong rolling maul to score the bonus point at the end of the first half and give Ulster a strong lead despite a poor opening ten minutes. After the break Rob Lyttle scored Ulster’s final try after 48 minutes thanks to good hands from Billy Burns and Michael Lowry.
An hour passed and it was Ulster’s turn to feel the wrath of Ben Whitehouse. Michael Lowry’s yellow card was incredibly harsh as he was backpedalling to get onside while the Edinburgh player placed the ball into his path. It was correct to award the penalty but I thought the yellow card was a little excessive for an accidental error that was not foul play. Nick Timoney followed for a no arms tackle on Schoeman from 5m out. This one was more clearcut as Ulster had just been warned for repetitive infringements. Edinburgh’s tighthead finally powered over, showing how hard it is to defend tap and go penalties from five metres out.
Two tries in three minutes from Cammy Hutchinson and Eroni Sau equalled the scores however Ulster referred a tackle to Michael Lowry to the referee in the build up to Sau’s leveller. Looking at the new Head Contact Process law application guideline on the World Rugby website, Whitehouse deemed that there was head contact but no foul play as Mike Willemse was attempting a legal tackle but the point of impact was caused by a sudden change in body height of Lowry in the tackle and left the Edinburgh hooker with no time to readjust.
Ulster got one last shot with Whitehouse awarding Madigan a penalty which he knocked over, as he did in September, to win the match for the northern province by three points.