Ferris leads Ulster to bonus triumph
ULSTER 31 AIRONI 10
Ulster successfully got the opening part of their Heineken Cup task completed at Ravenhill last night with a bonus-point victory over Italian visitors Aironi.
On a bitingly cold evening it took Ulster a long time to warm up, but once they did, their engine revved sweetly into action. It was not a polished effort by any means, but there was plenty of shine in the performance, with the five tries putting a gloss on things.
Stephen Ferris, again Man of the Match, started off the try-scoring, with Adam D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson all crossing the whitewash. Ian Humphreys added three conversions.
Ulster took an immediate stranglehold of the game and in the opening 10 minutes Aironi were never allowed to venture out of their own half.
But once again a lack of concentration and silly errors stunted Ulster's progress as the Italian visitors slowly found their feet on the soft Ravenhill surface. However, it was no surprise that Ulster finally carved an opening for that man Ferris to do what is now becoming a weekly habit.
The move originated from deep, with Darren Cave cutting a swathe up the left; the ball was moved to No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, who slipped the ball to Ferris. He steamed up the touchline, brushing aside an attempted tackle to charge over out wide. Humphreys converted and Ulster were on their way.
Ulster, though, conceded an easy penalty four minutes later, with Tito Tebaldi punishing a ruck offence 30 metres out.
Both Tebaldi, twice, and Humphreys then missed kickable penalties by a whisker before Aironi were reduced to 14 men in the run-up to the break when full-back Giulio Toniolatti saw yellow for interferring with the ball at the base of a ruck.
Ulster went for broke and after sustained pressure in the red zone, full-back D'Arcy flung himself over for the second try right on the half-time whistle.
The third quarter was vintage Ulster. It only took them two minutes to push out their advantage with their third try, which virtually settled the issue. Once it again Ferris laid waste to the Aironi midfield with a surging run, and the ball was quickly recycled right.
Swift passing saw D'Arcy put Trimble away down the right and the Ireland winger charged past a scrambling defence to score wide out.
Coach Brian McLaughlin rang the changes, with new recruit Stefan Terblanche making his debut, and Tom Court and Paul Marshall were also introduced in the 50th minute.
And Marshall secured that all-important bonus point six minutes later when he took a quick tap penalty five metres out to waltz over the line, with Humphreys adding the extras.
It was all Ulster as Aironi had great difficulty getting their hands on the ball and try number five came through replacement Jackson, who took a wrap-around ball to sprint in, with Humphreys again converting.
It was all done and dusted by the time Aironi finally made their way upfield to grab a consolation try, with replacement hooker Tommaso D'Apice crashing over and Naas Olivier converting.
The victory will give a big boost to Ulster, who travel to Viadana next Saturday for the return clash.
Ulster -- A D'Arcy; A Trimble (S Terblanche, 50), D Cave, N Spence (P Jackson, 52), C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (P Marshall 50); P McAllister (T Court 50), R Best (A Kyriacou, 70), J Afoa (Macklin, 70), J Muller (Capt), D Tuohy (L Stevenson, 66), S Ferris (R Diack, 66), C Henry, P Wannenburg.
Aironi -- G Toniolatti ; S Sinoti, R Quartaroli, G Pavon (A Benettin, 66), M Pratichetti; T Tebaldi (N Olivier, 61), T Keats (G Bronzini, 61); S Perugini (A de Marchi 54), F Ongaro (T D'Apice, 61), L Romano Redolfini, 57), C del Fava Biagi, 73), M Bortolami (capt), N Cattina (F Ferrarini, 74), S Favaro, J Sole.
Ref -- A Small (England).