Monday 21 August 2017

Humphreys on double for Ulster

Ulster 20 , Scarlets 18

Ulster moved into second place in the table with a gritty, but unconvincing victory at Ravenhill last night.

If the northern province were looking for a slingshot into next week's big European Cup quarter-final, they failed miserably.

However, thanks to two tries by the returning Ian Humphreys, they nonetheless managed to keep their Magners hopes right on track.

A positive for Ulster was the set-piece, where the return of BJ Botha had Scarlets in all sorts of problems.

Playing with a gusting breeze at their tails, Ulster struggled to get their hands on the ball in the early stages. Scarlets dominated all aspects of play at this stage and they were helped by the abject play of the home side.

The visitors were well worth their 3-0 advantage mid-way through the half thanks to Stephen Jones' ninth-minute penalty.

Any ball that Ulster did manage to pilfer, they quickly gave away again through silly errors, while Ruan Pienaar missing two kicks at goal didn't help either.

It was only when Humphreys conjured up a magical moment in the 28th minute that Ulster finally shrugged aside their lethargy.

They had been meandering along in possession without any go-forward momentum when Humphreys executed a perfect dummy to waltz through a gap and skip out of Rhys Priestland's tackle to go in under the posts.

Another Jones penalty brought the Scarlets to within a point before Pienaar finally found his range with two sweetly-hit penalties, one from 58 metres, to give Ulster a rather fortuitous 13-6 half-time lead.

That lead was quickly reduced after only two minutes of the restart when poor midfield defence allowed Regan King to run through a gaping hole and send fellow centre Jon Davies sprinting into the corner. Scarlets continued in attacking mode and Gareth Maule was only denied a touchdown after a review upstairs.

It took a yellow card for Scarlets' Josh Turnbull -- for reckless use of the boot in the 54th minute -- to get a rather sloppy Ulster firing again and it was another piece of individualism that took them further ahead.

An under-used Simon Danielli finally burst on to the scene with a great crashing run from half-way. Although he was caught, good support work by Tom Court, enabled the ball to be recycled and allowed Humphreys to trot in for his second try.

Scarlets got some reward in injury-time when replacement flanker Aaron Shingler intercepted a Pienaar pass, swatted aside a tackle by Humphreys and ran in.

Ulster -- A D'Arcy; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best (capt), BJ Botha (McAllister 65); J Muller, D Tuohy; R Diack (Barker 76), P Wannenburg, W Faloon (Henry 69).

Scarlets -- R Priestland; G Maule, R King (Williams 49-60), J Davies (Williams 70), M Stoddart; S Jones (Evans 40), T Knoyle; I Thomas (Jones 77), M Rees (capt) (Phillips 80), R Thomas (Edwards 73); L Reed, R McCusker (Lyons 70); J Turnbull, J Edwards (Shingler 78), B Morgan.

Ref -- G Knox (SRU).

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