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First Half Performance Sees Edinburgh Past Ulster

jmcconnell 30 Nov 2007

A lively first half display, which included tries from centre Matt Dey and full-back Ben Cairns, saw Edinburgh complete a season’s double over Ulster at Ravenhill as Andy Robinson’s side closed the gap on fifth-placed Glasgow to a single point.

For the first time in over a year Edinburgh have managed back-to-back victories with last week’s fiery home win over Llanelli Scarlets being followed up by this success at Ravenhill.

Indeed, Andy Robinson’s second win in charge of the Scottish side was also the club’s first away win of 2007 and their first victory on Irish soil since October 2006. It also completed their first ever season’s double over an out-of-sorts Ulster side.

Ulster, under caretaker coach Steve Williams, are struggling for consistency and turned in another Jekyll and Hyde performance as they slipped back down to the bottom rung in the Magners League table.

On a wintry night in Belfast, Ulster looked like they might continue where they left off in last week’s 30-13 win over Connacht. The home side were 5-0 up within three minutes of the kick-off.

A lightning move, which began with Roger Wilson charging forward off the base of the scrum, saw Ulster spin the ball wide for supporting full-back Mark Bartholomeusz to send Tommy Bowe over in the right corner for his 25th league try in 59 games.

Paddy Wallace, whose pass had looked forward in the build-up to what was a smashing try, missed the conversion and little seemed to go right for Ulster after that.

They lost number 8 Wilson to a fractured right thumb, which will see the Ireland international sidelined for six to eight weeks, and in a brisk first quarter, Williams’ side also missed out on two further try-scoring opportunities, the most frustrating of which saw Simon Danielli knock on over the Edinburgh try line.

With flanker Ross Rennie catching the eye for the second successive week and captain and scrum half Mike Blair showing off his superb handling skills, Edinburgh’s pack came more and more into the game as the half progressed.

The visitors capitalised on an error from Bartholomeusz to grab a 24th-minute try which Phil Godman converted for a 7-5 lead.

The Ulster full-back failed to deal with a chip ahead from Godman and centre Dey swept forward to notch the touchdown.

Things got even better for the Scots just four minutes later when Cairns, having been set up by Blair and Nick de Luca, outpaced the home cover to race in from the right for another try which Godman converted.

Suddenly 14-5 behind, Ulster could not reply before half-time as Wallace missed a penalty and Edinburgh extended their lead to 12 points thanks to a lengthy penalty strike from Godman.

Six minutes into the second half, Godman repeated the trick for a 20-5 scoreline and Robinson’s men were almost out of sight. Ulster had to hit back and fast.

They dominated possession for the remainder but were limited to penalty kicks from Wallace. Ireland’s back-up fly-half from the World Cup landed three successive penalties after 49, 61 and 69 minutes to whittle Edinburgh’s advantage down to 20-14.

Wallace was joined at half-back for the closing quarter by Kieran Campbell, who was winning his 100th cap, and had Ulster had a slice of luck at that stage, you sensed they could have turned things around.

As it was, the closest they got to a second try was when Bowe was held up just short of the Edinburgh whitewash.

Ulster might have even lost their grip on a losing bonus point – Godman missed a kickable penalty in the 70th-minute but Edinburgh hung on to take the spoils during a frantic finish.