Match Report: Spirited Scarlets lose a cracker at the Kingspan

Pic by Richard Early

By Ben Jones

ULSTER maintained their one-hundred percent start as they saw off a spirited Scarlets, who will look back at a selection of missed kicks as something that cost them dear.

It could have been a different story in Belfast had Angus O’Brien and Dan Jones converted their respective kicks, but three tries and a pleasing performance against a strong Ulster outlet is something to be proud of, especially considering the amount of players they’re missing.

Ulster opened the scoring first with a well-worked try from winger Rob Lyttle. Matt Faddes broke away and found Lyttle who did the rest, making an outrageous step inside and touching down in the corner.

That seemed to kick the Scarlets into gear, however. A flurry of penalties went the way of the visiting side that Jones couldn’t convert.

Then came a moment of controversy. Kieran Tredwell was penalised for a high tackle that on another day could have been a red card. This time though, he was sent to the bin for ten minutes and that’s where the Scarlets would capitalise.

By having more numbers, Llanelli were able to benefit and crossed over through Paul Asquith. A flood of quick passes meant the visiting side had men over, and the 27 year old made no mistake.

Ulster looked as if they were under the cosh whilst Tredwell’s time in the bin ran down and the Scarlets pressured the try line, but they were relieved when Stewart Moore intercepted on his own 22 and ran the length of the field to score under the posts.

It seemed all wind had gone from the away sides sails after that. Suddenly Ulster had found their second gear and would go over once more as the clock hit red. Openside Sean Reidy would end a series of sustained pressure from the hosts as their lead stretched to 19-7 at half time.

What’s the best way to start the second half? A try, obviously, and a really, really good one at that. Steff Hughes lined up a cross field kick, it bounced perfectly for Ryan Conbeer who nonchalantly took the ball in and touched down for his fourth try in three games.

It would be the visiting side who would strike again not long afterwards, following another lack of discipline and a yellow card for Ulster’s Maddes. Tyler Morgan made a terrific break and released Steff Evans who won the sprint to the line and brought the Scarlets within two.

Unforced errors would then prove costly for the Welsh side as first a knock on from a high ball from O’Brien and then one from Dane Blacker inside his own five-metre line would eventually lead to Treadwell bulldozing his way over.

The Scarlets weren’t finished there, though. A driving maul seemed to last an age as it stopped and started but Phil Price crossed the whitewash to set up a tense finish. The Irish side would hold on for the win, however, as it finished 26-24. A cracker at the Kingspan.

Scarlet’s head coach Glenn Delaney was happy with how his team performed Sunday as he spoke with PremierSports.

“I’m immensely proud [of the performance], the effort was amazing. We just spoke there, the players are gutted – they knew they had the opportunity to win the game.

“The boys are gutted – they’ve come to one of the hardest places to play rugby in the world, and they’ve performed well… I think that shows how far they’ve come as a group.”

Player of the Game: Sean Reidy

ULSTER: (9) John Cooney, (10) Bill Johnston, (11) Rob Lyttle, (12) Stewart Moore, (13) Luke Marshall, (14) Matt Faddes, (15) Michael Lowry, (1) Eric O’Sullivan, (2) John Andrew, (3) Marty Moore, (4) Alan O’Connor (C), (5) Kieran Treadwell, (6) Matty Rea, (7) Sean Reidy, (8) Marcell Coetzee

Replacements: (16) Adam McBurney, (17) Kyle McCall, (18) Tom O’Toole, (19) David O’Connor, (20) Jordi Murphy, (21) Alby Matthewson, (22) Ian Madigan, (23) Craig Gilroy

SCARLETS: (9) Dane Blacker, (10) Dan Jones, (11) Steff Evans, (12) Paul Asquith, (13) Steff Hughes (C), (14) Ryan Conbeer, (15) Angus O’Brien, (1) Rob Evans, (2) Taylor Davies, (3) Javan Sebastian, (4) Jac Price, (5) Danny Drake, (6) Ed Kennedy, (7) Jac Morgan, (8) Sione Kalamafoni

Replacements: (16) Daf Hughes, (17) Phil Price, (18) Werner Kruger, (19) Sam Lousi, (20) Uzair Cassiem, (21) Will Homer, (22) Sam Costelow, (23) Tyler Morgan