Piutau makes instant impact
Ulster 29 Northampton Saints 19
It may have been only a pre-season work-out, but Ulster's All Black import Charles Piutau showed what a prodigious talent he is.
Piutau scored one try, set up two others while Louis Ludik, Rob Herring and Jacob Stockdale also scored while wing Robert Lyttle banged over three early conversions and a penalty.
But it was the New Zealand star who just exuded sheer class throughout as Ulster defeated a full-bodied Northampton squad at the Kingspan last night. Both new boys Piutau, and prop Rodney Ah You, showed what they could bring to the party with some rumbustious early charges.
It was Piutau's piece of magic that allowed Ulster to take the lead in the 17th minute with a classic mid-air take before Lyttle put Ludik in for the try. Piutau then finished off some quick-witted work by Paul Marshall whose tap penalty opened up the Saints defence which allowed All Black to crash over. A pushover try from a line-out further enhanced Ulster's lead with skipper Rob Herring getting the touchdown. Lyttle converted as Ulster led 24-0 at the break.
With both benches being used at regular intervals, the game obviously was a stop-start affair although it was the Saints that scored first on the resumption through prop Alex Waller.
Then came the other piece of typical New Zealand flair by Piutau when he broke through and, although tackled 10 metres out, he managed a wonderful flip-pass to Stockdale who ran in try number four. Saints did manage to cross the line a few more times with Tom Collins and JP Estelle touching down.
ULSTER - C Piutau; L Ludik, S McCloskey, D Cave, R Lyttle, B Heron, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (capt), P Browne, F van der Merwe, R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson. Replacements: A Warwick, R Herring (captain), R Ah You, P Browne, F van der Merwe, R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson. Reps: J Andrew, C Black, R Kane, A O'Connor, C Joyce, M Rea, D Shanahan, S Windsor, J Stockdale.
NORTHAMPTON - B Foden; K Pisi, L Burrell, H Mallinder, A Tuala; S Myler, L Dickson; A Waller, D Hartley, K Brookes, M Paterson, J Craig, T Wood (capt), J Gibson, L Picamoles. Reps: C Maafu, M Haywood, P Hill, C Lawes, J Ludlam, J Gibson, S Dickinson, N Groom, JJ Hanrahan, H Packman, G Pisi, JP Estelles, T Collins, G Furbank.
REF - L Linton