Sunday 19 November 2017

Ulster find encouragement in Les Kiss's debut defeat


Michael Allen, Ulster, makes a break through the Exeter Chiefs defence
Michael Allen, Ulster, makes a break through the Exeter Chiefs defence
Ian Humphreys, Ulster, kicks a penalty
Rory Scholes, Ulster, scores his side's second try
Franco van der Merwe, Ulster, wins possession in a lineout against Damian Welch, Exeter Chiefs
Ian Humphreys, Ulster, kicks a penalty
Roger Wilson, Ulster, is tackled by Sam Hill, left, and Thomas Waldrom, Exeter Chiefs
Louis Ludik, Ulster, battles for possession against Tom Johnson, Exeter Chiefs

LES Kiss's first game in charge as Ulster coach ended in a one-point defeat. Despite that, however, he will have taken much encouragement after watching his inexperienced side serve up a good performance first time out.


They were strolling to victory at 21-8 before emptying the bench late on which allowed Exeter to snatch an unlikely win.

Ulster debutant, New Zealander Sean Reidy's first outing proved to be a short-lived one; he exited in the 8th minute gingerly holding his right arm, with Lansdowne's Clive Ross - another first-timer - deputising on the open-side.

Moments later a third home-team debutant - South African Louis Ludik - suffered a heavy blow in tackling Whitten.

Ludik required on-field treatment and no sooner had he made his way back into the defensive line than Exeter's Matt Jess scored in the corner.

Henry Slade missed the conversion, following which his side's full-back Phil Dollman also bowed out injured, with Chrysander Botha taking over. Perhaps we were going to need all those substitutes after all?

Ulster levelled on 25 minutes from a flowing move which ended with Rory Scholes touching down and Ian Humphreys resumed his Ulster career with a great conversion which gave his side a 7-5 lead. Ulster bagged their second try after 34 minutes when Ludik forced his way over under the posts.

Exeter rang the changes - three at half-time and another trio in the first seven minutes of the second period - but continued to concede penalties. Scholes struck from 40 metres. Again Humphreys added the conversion, making it 21-8.

'Stand up for the Ulster men' echoed round the Kingspan Stadium - remarkable for a friendly match, as was the 13,000 attendance which included a small but engagingly vociferous number of Chiefs fans.

However, it was Ceri Sweeney who applied the finish to a good spell by Exeter who finally broke through after initially being repelled by some stout home defence. That was converted, as was a second Jess try a minute later, thereby giving the Chiefs a 22-21 lead with under five minutes remaining. In the 79th minute O'Hagan was unable to land a long-range penalty. No matter - plenty for Ulster to build on.

Irish Independent

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