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Ulster forced to dig deep in Italy

Guinness PRO12 Editor 23 Feb 2014

Ulster continued their relentless charge up the RaboDirect PRO 12 table thanks to tries from Darren Cave and Robbie Diack but the Irish side were made to work hard for the 14-12 win by a determined Treviso.

Pre-game statistics suggested a comfortable win for Ulster but four penalties from Treviso fly-half Mat Berquist and continued needless errors by the visitors at the breakdown made for a tense fixture.

Treviso started like an express against Ulster; with their Irish opponents unable to get out of their own half in the opening minutes.

The Italians may have lost their last five games but the home side did not appear short on confidence as they dominated the breakdown area in the opening ten minutes.

Treviso missed a penalty after three minutes to take the lead as Berquist pulled his kick at goal wide of the posts but the Italians didn’t have to wait long to get their name on the scoresheet.

The Treviso No.10 was successful with his second kick at goal from in front of the posts but the surprise deficit seemed to kickstart the visitors.

After a period of sustained pressure Ulster centre Cave scored a try from close range, sidestepping the Italian defence after scrum-half Paul Marshall was held up short of the line – Ruan Pienaar added the extras after 11 minutes.

Ulster had only lost once in their last ten games and it was easy to see why as the Irish side started to look threatening every time they got ball in hand.

The visitors almost scored a second try after 33 minutes – after a kick through from Cave – Ulster wing Michael Allen was unable to gather the ball and the Italians touched behind for a 22m drop out.

Ulster had only previously lost to an Italian opposition once in 2011 and after soaking up sustained pressure in the opening ten minutes, they never looked like surrendering the points.

Ulster turned down a kickable early second-half penalty and opted for touch instead but Pienaar overhit his effort and Treviso survived.

For all their dominance in the loose, needless errors at the breakdown ensured referee George Clancy continually penalised the visitors and after 48 minutes further indiscipline from Ulster saw Berquist cut the deficit to just a solitary point for Treviso.

Ulster put some daylight between themselves and the Italians on 51 minutes as flanker Diack went over for a try after a period of sustained pressure – with Pienaar adding the extras.

If Ulster were expecting Treviso to collapse after the score, they were mistaken as Berquist reduced the arrears with a penalty on 57 minutes and then they got within two points of the Irishmen with another penalty from their fly-half on 71 minutes.

Ulster were thankful of the final whistle as Treviso applied continued pressure in the last ten minutes but the visitors held firm to take the win.

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