Humphreys' star turn has Ulster flying
Ulster eased their Heineken Cup qualification worries with a convincing win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield yesterday to pull ahead of Connacht, their rivals for the third European spot.
In a strong performance from the Ravenhill men, Ian Humphreys, coming on as a second-half replacement, turned the game with several pieces of individual brilliance to steer his side to a deserved win.
Edinburgh opened the scoring with a Phil Godman penalty, but Ulster quickly stated their victory intentions with a fine score. Andrew Trimble started the move but it was the outside break by Darren Cave and the centre's reverse pass to Jamie Smith that set up the try.
Smith, veering infield, had the pace and footwork to beat the despairing tackle of Mark Robertson, allowing the full-back to touch down under the posts. Niall O'Connor was left with an easy conversion.
Godman had a chance to row back some points only for his penalty kick to stray off target. But at the other end O'Connor, from a similar distance, made no mistake to give Ulster a 10-3 advantage.
Edinburgh, after a lethargic start, suddenly woke up to the prospect of defeat and began to attack the Ulster defence. A touchline dash by Ben Cairns brought Edinburgh close to the try-line and when the ball was moved wide, winger Tim Visser had the strength to swat off the Ulster defence and touch down in the corner. Godman added the extra points to leave the teams locked at 10-10 going into the break.
With the sides evenly balanced, Ulster broke the deadlock in the early part of the second half with a try from Scotland wing Simon Danielli -- from a classic break by Humphreys -- to restore their advantage.
Ulster's growing confidence produced a third try as the game moved into the last quarter. It was Trimble who did the damage, first sparking an attack to the left and then, when the attack changed direction, running wide of the Edinburgh defence before passing to Ian Whitten, who scored in the corner.
A Godman penalty put Edinburgh within a score of Ulster, but almost immediately hopes of a home revival were shattered when Humphreys charged down Cairns' clearance kick to score and then convert for the bonus point.
And it got worse for Edinburgh as Stephen Ferris scooped up ball lost in the tackle to charge 40 metres for Ulster's fifth try, which was converted by Humphreys.
Visser replied with his second try four minutes from full-time and then, in an action-packed finish, Turnbull raced in for Edinburgh's third try; but a penalty by Humphreys killed it off for Ulster as they sealed a crucial win.
Edinburgh -- B Cairns; T Visser, N De Luca, J Houston, M Robertson (A Turnbull 58); P Godman, G Laidlaw (M Blair 50); A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross (K Traynor 58), S MacLeod, J Hamilton, A MacDonald, R Grant, D Callam (S Newlands 67).
Ulster -- J Smith (I Boss 60); A Trimble (N Spence 73), D Cave, I Whitten, S Danielli; N O'Connor (I Humphreys 36), P Marshall; T Court (B Young 60), R Best (A Kyricaou 75), BJ Botha, E O'Donoghue, D Tuohy (R Caldwell 61), S Ferris, W Faloon (T Anderson 75), R Diack.
Ref -- N Owens (Wales).