Boss keeps faint Ulster hopes alive
Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
Ulster came out of cold storage to strangle the life out of Edinburgh and take their outside chances of reaching the knock-out stages a step further.
The northern province will now look to Bath this afternoon to do them a favour by lowering the colours of Stade Francais in Paris.
In dreadful conditions and with a wicked wind dictating the pattern of play, the Ulster pack showed the type of control one would expect from a certain Irish team in red.
Apart from one or two lapses, Brian McLaughlin's side dominated the game from start to finish with tries from Darren Cave and man of the match Isaac Boss adding the gloss.
Against a gathering wind which blew straight down the muddy Ravenhill pitch, Ulster superbly kept the ball tight early on and frustrated the visitors, who had prop David Young yellow-carded following a fifth indiscretion by Edinburgh.
Ulster continued to play keep-ball managing to very slowly inch their way upfield. However, one boot from fly-half Phil Godman and Ulster were back in their own red zone and starting the process all over again.
It wasn't pretty and with referee Christophe Berdos getting frustrated by Edinburgh's spoiling tactics which resulted in five penalties being awarded in the opening quarter, Ulster were happy to carry on making slow progress upfield.
However, Edinburgh finally got a break when a lazy Ulster runner allowed Chris Paterson his first touch as he flicked over the opening score of the game from a penalty in the 21st minute.
A great 40-metre dash by the revitalised Andrew Trimble got the crowd going as Ulster showed they were not afraid to move the ball when the opportunity arose.
And it was no fluke when Ulster's handling paid dividends in the 29th minute with some excellent interplay from Trimble, Stephen Ferris and Dan Tuohy before Cave bustled his way over wide out.
Credit to Ulster hooker Nigel Brady, whose throws were accurate despite wind which increased with every passing minute, although the rain stopped drenching the 9,000 crowd midway through the half.
However, Edinburgh and Paterson jumped on a rare Ulster handling error and subsequent penalty to sweep his side into the lead as his 40-metre penalty bulleted over with the wind.
This seemed to finally spur the visitors on in the run-up to half-time and a neatly threaded grubber kick by wing Jim Thompson into the corner had their tails up.
However, once again, Ulster's control was majestic as they went into half-time one point down, but very much on the front foot. Edinburgh applied the same tactics as Ulster on the restart, but two thundering tackles by Ferris put a bit of manners into them.
Humphreys then nudged Ulster ahead in the 45th minute when he slotted over a close-in penalty after Edinburgh held on at a ruck.
But the visitors were not about to lie down and they too showed good handling and dangerous movement as they showed a willingness to run the ball into the wicked wind.
Ulster were destroying the Edinburgh scrum with their two props replaced by half-time. And it was from a set-piece that allowed Ulster to stretch their lead. First Trimble made ground up the right, and when the ruck was won, scrum-half Boss celebrated his 100th appearance by selling a delicious dummy to run in under the posts for Humphreys to add the extras.
A Stephen Ferris yellow card for not rolling away put a different perspective on the game. Edinburgh ran the penalty from the half-way and after some excellent forward control, the ball was moved right for Thompson to touch down midway out with the try splendidly converted by Paterson.
The 14-man Ulster then resorted the sort of control that thwarted Edinburgh in the opening half and true to form they were awarded a penalty in the 68th minute with Humphreys squeezing the kick in at the left-hand upright.
Ulster never looked like allowing Edinburgh up the field again as the rain pelted down, replacement Niall O'Connor put the icing on the cake with a penalty with the last kick of the game and denying the visitors a loser's bonus for good measure.
Ulster -- J Smith; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys (N O'Connor 71), I Boss (C Willis 77); T Court (B Young 60), N Brady (A Kyriacou 60), BJ Botha (D Fitzpatrick 76); D Tuohy (R Caldwell 71), E O'Donoghue; S Ferris, D Pollock, C Henry (capt). Yellow Cards: S Ferris (59-69)
Edinburgh -- C Paterson (capt); J Thompson, B Cairns (N De Luca 50), J Houston, T Visser (M Robertson 50); P Godman, G Laidlaw (R Samson 70); A Jacobsen (K Traynor 32), R Ford (A Kelly 70), D Young (G Cross 40), S MacLeod (C Hamilton 70), J Hamilton, S Newlands, A MacDonald (F McKenzie 73), R Grant
Yellow Cards: D Young (6-16)
Ref -- Christophe Berdos (FFR).