Ulster 13 - 16 Edinburgh: Edinburgh roll on at Ravenhill to make it three league wins in a row
Published Date: 19 September 2009
By Alisdair Hogg www.scotsman.com
EDINBURGH made it nine wins in a row last night in Belfast against a doughty Ulster team which itself was coming off the back of an excellent away win to the Ospreys the previous weekend.
This was a superb comeback by Edinburgh who were two tries down after the opening quarter. No-one epitomised the Edinburgh effort more than back rowers Roddy Grant and Skipper Allister Hogg who both put in heroic shifts, Grant in the tackle and Hogg with his carries.
Ravenhill has historically has always been a tough venue for Edinburgh having only won once in their last six visits before last night.
The tense opening exchanges of the match were littered with unforced errors. Both team's line-outs failed to function effectively, kicks were clumsily hit straight into touch from outside the 22 and the handling skills were questionable too.
Edinburgh just survived an early scare after Ulster centre Ian Whitten broke clear of Ali Hogg's attempted tackle. All Whitten had to do was to find the un-marked man outside him, wing Timoci Nagusa, who had a free run-in, but his pass went to ground.
Ulster's Scotland wing Simon Danielli was starting to become heavily involved in the game. First, he brilliantly fielded a high ball above his head. Minutes later he half charged down a clearance kick by scrum half Greig Laidlaw, after chasing his own up-and-under. Then on 15 minutes he made a decisive intervention when he took the ball up into the heavy traffic beyond the 22. The ball was recycled quickly close to the left touch line, Ulster's returning British Lion Stephen Ferris was the recipient of the short pass and he bullocked his way through the flimsy Edinburgh defence to touch down.
Ian Humphreys missed the conversion but Ulster repeated the dose minutes later, full back Clinton Schifcofske scoring a try in the left corner after he seized on to a loose ball and dropped over the line. Humphreys once again missed the extras.
To Edinburgh's credit they did not looked unduly fazed and they took the game to Ulster. Laidlaw and Phil Godman worked beautifully well as a hinge and they brought both forwards and backs into the line to punch holes in the home side's defence. Chris Paterson came close to touching down and it seemed only a matter of time before Edinburgh crossed the line. They duly did after Laidlaw fed wing Tim Visser close to the left wing corner flag, he stepped inside and used his 6' 4" frame to push through Ian Whitten's tackle to stretch over the whitewash for the try. Paterson kicked a wonderful conversion from the left touchline to reduce the deficit to three points.
After this scoring burst both teams defended comfortably, but it was Ulster who were next on the score sheet after Roddy Grant was caught entering the breakdown from the side. Humphreys was on target for the first time in the match with his long-range effort. Just before half time Edinburgh were adjudged to have been too keen in defence and were whistled for offside, but Humphrey's missed the penalty. The halftime score was 13-7 to Ulster.
Edinburgh started the second half unconvincingly and were almost handing ball over to Ulster again through poor line-outs and wayward kicking from hand. It was Edinburgh though who almost capitalised on an Ulster mistake. Home stand-off Humphreys laboured over a clearance kick on his ten-metre line, Hogg was through quickly to charge down the kick which rebounded towards the try line. Ulster wing Nagusa was fasted to react and cleared the danger.
Edinburgh introduced their other British Lion Mike Blair and Scotland prop Alan Jacobsen in an effort to spark something but initially it seemed to have the reverse effect. The Edinburgh scrum was the next area to show a weakness and they were almost shoved off their own ball on their 22-metre line after a mighty Ulster effort. Hogg and Blair managed to scramble the ball away. Then Ulster, frantically seeking the turnover which might well have resulted in a try, were penalised for going off their feet at the resulting breakdown.
For all their set piece and territorial pressure during this period Ulster only managed a weak drop-goal attempt and never looked like crossing the Edinburgh line. Edinburgh's first forays into the Ulster half in the second half however had the home defence scrambling and saw Paddy Wallace sin-binned for a trip. Paterson stepped up and slotted the penalty to make the score 13-10 with 15 minutes to go.
Edinburgh's tactical kicking was now far more accurate. And from one such kick to the right corner, Ulster were pinged for entering the maul from the side after winning a lineout. Paterson again slotted the penalty from wide out; not one of his best looking kicks as it staggered over the bar, but good enough to tie the scores at 13-13.
From the resulting kick off Edinburgh took the ball upfield. Hogg and Kelly both surged though the Ulster defence eating up the ground. The ball was recycled to Phil Godman who attempted a drop goal from midway between the 22 and the ten-metre line. After an interminable wait Welsh referee Nigel Owens eventually signalled the kick to be good, Edinburgh were now ahead for the first time in the game at 13-16.
Edinburgh now looked comfortable with their lead and kept their cool, keeping Ulster pinned in their own half for all of a nail-biting five minutes of extra-Standfirst
time to close out the win.
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Ferris, Schifcofske. Pen: Humphreys. Edinburgh: Tries: Visser. Con: Paterson. Pen: Paterson 2. Drop goal: Godman.
Teams: Ulster: C Schifcofske, T Nagusa, D Cave, I Whitten, S Danielli I Humphreys, I Boss; B Young, A Kyriacou, B Botha, N McComb, E O'Donoghue, S Ferris, W Faloon, C Henry (C). Subs used: Brady, Fitzpatrick, Diack, Willis, Wallace, Trimble.
Edinburgh: C Paterson, M Robertson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw; K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross, C Hamilton, S Macleod, A Macdonald, R Grant, A Hogg (c). Subs used: Kelly, Jacobsen, Turnbull, Blair, de Luca.