Lacklustre Ulster limp past Aironi
Ulster 23 Aironi 10
Ulster struggled to put away Italian visitors Aironi at Ravenhill last night despite racing into a 15-point lead in as many minutes.
They began like world beaters and looking like notching up a bonus point by half-time. But they allowed Aironi, who have yet to win a Magners League game all season, back into the game.
In the end there was no bonus for Ulster despite early tries from Tom Court and Craig Gilroy, with Declan Fitzpatrick getting a third late on.
It took just three minutes for Ulster to get the scoreboard ticking. A long touch-finder from Ruan Pienaar, a catch and take in the line-out, and Court drove over the line. Out-half Pienaar converted.
Their second try came five minutes later when after a scrum five metres out, the ball was moved wide to Gilroy, who ran in his seventh try from seven starts. Pienaar converted and added a penalty soon after as Ulster completely dominated the Italians.
Then Ulster appeared to lose their concentration and with their discipline dropping, Aironi's Riccardo Bocchino popped over a penalty on the half hour.
Ulster lethargy accounted for Aironi cutting the lead two minutes from the break when a series of rucks allowed the ball to be spread wide on the right for full-back James Marshall to burst through some weak tackling to run under the posts for Bocchino to convert.
It was the same dozy, lacklustre Ulster that began the second half and they were lucky not to concede a second try. A lazy long pass by Willie Faloon was picked off by Aironi's Danwel Demas, who appeared to have a clear 60-metre run to the line. But Pienaar tracked him back and his ankle tap on Ulster's 22 saved the day.
Ulster then lost their captain Johann Muller to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul in the 56th minute before Pienaar floated over his second penalty in the 62nd minute.
However, there was still little co-ordination in Ulster's play which was full of schoolboy errors, although they did manage their third try in the 73rd minute with replacement prop Fitzpatrick driving over from a ruck to end the scoring.
Ulster -- A D'Arcy (S Danielli 47) ; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall (L Marshall 58); P McAllister (P Fitzpatrick 47, J Cronin 75), N Brady (A Kyriacou 47), T Court, J Muller (capt), T Barker (N McComb 65), C Henry, P Wannenburg, W Faloon (R Diack 75).
Aironi -- J Marshall; K Robertson, G Pavan (Pizarro 64), M Pratichetti, D Demas; R Bocchino (Rubini 70), P Travagli (T Tebaldi 65); A De Marchi, R Santamaria (D'Apice, 70), U Gamboa, J Furno (Biagi 66), M Bortolami (capt); J Sole, G Krause, N Williams.
Ref -- L Hodges (WRU).