New faces allow Ulster and Humphreys to salvage draw
Scarlets 32 Ulster 32
ANDREW Trimble stepped off the bench to rescue a draw and three points for Ulster in a pulsating match at Parc Y Scarlets.
Ulster trailed Scarlets 32-18 with just 13 minutes remaining after Gareth Davies, last year's Pro12 top try-scorer, grabbed his second score of the game.
Yet Scarlets were guilty of prematurely celebrating victory and Ulster took full advantage. Louis Ludik emulated compatriot Franco van der Merwe by scoring on his debut for Ulster before Trimble, a second-half replacement, darted over in the final minute and Ian Humphreys' conversion wrapped up the draw against 14 men.
Wales fullback Liam Williams had been sent off for a second yellow card as Scarlets desperately tried to halt Ulster's growing momentum late on.
"We're disappointed with many areas of our game, but we have to be pleased with the way we got ourselves out of the position we were in," said flyhalf Ian Humphreys.
After a tumultuous summer that saw the departure of director of rugby David Humphreys, head coach Mark Anscombe and a core of experienced star names, it was perhaps inevitable Ulster would be caught first.
However, the speed with which his team were dissected will have knocked caretaker coach Les Kiss as Wales trio Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams and Harry Robinson combined inside two minutes. Ulster's reply, however, was swift as both second-rows stormed over in the space of five minutes.
Van der Merwe made an impact befitting his predecessor Johann Muller, soaring to claim a lineout before providing an equally emphatic finish, on his debut, after Jared Payne and Robbie Diack made ground.
Tuohy followed moments later after delightful footwork by Stuart Olding, who was to prove Ulster's most dangerous and entertaining player by some distance. The centre was to prove a thorn in Scarlets' side all game and he thought he had conjured a response to Rory Pitman's try only for Irish official Peter Fitzgibbon to rule out the score for obstruction.
Worse followed when errors in midfield allowed last season's top try-scorer Gareth Davies to gallop half the length of the field and score on the stroke of half-time and leave Ulster trailing 24-15.
The timing of the try clearly rocked Ulster who lost Tuohy to a yellow card for an off-the-ball challenge on Williams. Liam Williams followed moments later for deliberately blocking a pass, though neither side capitalised.
Scarlets looked to have made the breakthrough on 63 minutes with a wonderful flowing move finished by Davies.
However Ulster's replacements galvanised a comeback that went down to the wire.
Scorers - Scarlets: H Robinson, R Pitman, G Davies (2) tries; R Priestland 3 cons, 2 pens. Ulster: F van der Merwe, D Tuohy, L Ludik, A Trimble tries, I Humphreys 3 cons, 2 pens.
Scarlets: L Williams; H Robinson, R King, S Williams, M Tagicakibau (G Owen, 58); R Priestland (S Shingler, 69), G Davies (R Williams, 65); P John (R Evans, 61), K Owens (capt, E Phillips, 79), R Jones (P Edwards, 73), J Ball, J Snyman (R Kelly, 73), R McCusker (A Shingler, 52), R Pitman, J Barclay.
Ulster: L Ludik; M Allen (A Trimble, 51), J Payne (L Marshall, 48), S Olding, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall (M Heaney, 78); C Black (A Warwick, h-t), R Herring, W Herbst (D Fitzpatrick, 32, Herbst, 65), D Tuohy, F van der Merwe (L Stevenson, 78), R Diack, R Wilson (capt, N Williams, 51), C Henry.
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.
Sunday Indo Sport