Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Connor, Diack complete Ulster's Italian job



Ulster's winning start to the Magners League campaign continued in Viadana last night, with Niall O'Connor and Robbie Diack stepping up to claim all the points in the defeat of Italian newcomers Aironi.

Ulster's first-ever Magners League clash in Italy started with the concession of three early points, Aironi's French out-half Ludovic Mercier kicking over from distance on seven minutes.

O'Connor levelled on 15 minutes with his first penalty of the tie, and Ulster rapidly built on their first score with an energetic forward surge, blighted only by a marginally forward lay-off from Paul Marshall to Diack on the Aironi 22-metre line.

Ulster continued to make all the running, and were rewarded on 22 minutes with another penalty on the right touchline. From a difficult angle and barely inside the Aironi half, O'Connor was spot-on.

No 8 Nick Williams was sin-binned on 33 minutes but and Italians drew level from a second Mercier penalty. O'Connor's third penalty left the visitors ahead at the interval.

Mercier's drop goal and penalty put the home side in front again. But when Aironi replacement Luca Redolfini was binned Ulster capitalised. O'Connor's kick had them level before Diack seized on a speculative Mercier pass and out-ran the veteran out-half to crash over the line. O'Connor's conversion consolidated the lead.

The sides swapped penalties again, O'Connor's on 72 minutes the last score of the game.

The final minutes were not without drama, however, as Pedrie Wannenburg found himself on the bench for failing to roll away after the tackle. In the ensuing Aironi push, Williams looked to have grounded the ball, but Ian Porter somehow managed to wedge himself between the ball and the turf.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves, it's a very long season but from a results point of view it's difficult not to be very happy with two wins from two," said Brian McLaughlin.

"Edinburgh at Ravenhill next Friday will be another tough proposition and we have got plenty to work on."

Scorers -- Ulster: R Diack try; D O'Connor 5 pen, con; Aironi: L Mercier 4 pen, 1 drop goal

Aironi: J Laharrague; G Toniolatti, R Quartaroli, D des Fountain (G Pizarro 2), G Rubini; L Mercier, T Tebaldi (P Canavosio 45); A De Marchi (L Redolfini 60), F Ongaro (L Ferraro 60), S Perugini, C Del Fava (M Bortolami 45), Q Geldenhuys, J Erasmus (J Sole 60), G Krause, N Williams.

Ulster: A D'Arcy; T Seymore, D Cave, P Wallace, D McLlwaine; N O'Connor, P Marshall (I Porter 60); T Court (P McAllister 73), N Brady (A Kyriacou 69), D Fitzpatrick (B Young 4), J Muller, T Barker (Caldwell 62), P Wannenburg, C Henry (W Faloon 60), R Diack.

Referee: David Jones (Wales)

Sunday Independent

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