Thursday 14 December 2017

Ulster count cost of Jackson's missed penalties

Edinburgh 14 Ulster 8 Pro12 League

ULSTER'S bid for top honours took a step backwards after defeat by Edinburgh at Murrayfield in a match decided by goal-kicking.

Both sides scored one try apiece, but it was the ability of Edinburgh's out-half Piers Francis to nail his kicks and, conversely, the failure of his opposite number Paddy Jackson with three second-half attempts at goal that determined the outcome of the game.

Edinburgh, after a slow and nervous start that perhaps reflected their position in the table, began to make territorial gains and following a late tackle on Piers Francis, the No 10 kicked a penalty to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

A second penalty by Francis extended Edinburgh's lead by a further three points, but, just before the break, Jackson got Ulster's first points to leave the Northern province trailing 3-6 at the break. The Heineken Cup quarter-finalists were forced to replace Johan Muller with Nick Williams at half-time, but that did not blunt their attacking intent at the beginning of the second half.

Two wides by Jackson relieved pressure on Edinburgh and then when the hosts were penalised at the contact, Jackson suffered a third penalty miss. Edinburgh immediately gained confidence and launched an attack that took the Scots into the Ulster '22' area.

Then from an Edinburgh scrum, No 8 Netali Talei broke free before supplying the scoring pass to flanker Stuart McInally. Francis missed the simple conversion, but the hosts were still sitting on a 11-3 lead.

Ulster hit back with a period of pressure that brought its reward from a clever grubber kick by Jarred Payne that forced a five-metre scrum. Ulster looked set to capitalise and they came close to scoring from a series of close-range drives, but turnover ball gave Edinburgh breathing space.

A subsequent attack ended with Williams being bundled into touch five metres out from the Edinburgh line.

But Ulster tails were up and when Allen put Payne through a gap, the full-back put in a clever grubber-kick that gave Andrew Trimble a simple try in the corner that proved too difficult for Jackson to convert.

Edinburgh responded positively with strong rugby that all but brought a try when Francis made a dash for the line on the end of some deft handling, only for the out-half to spill the ball.

The visitors replied with excellent handling, but their attempts to move close to the Edinburgh line were thwarted by turnover ball that turned the game towards the hosts.

It turned even further in their favour when they gained a penalty award in the visitors' 22m area, giving Francis an easy three points dividend.

Ulster tried desperately to salvage the match, but their attempts to run the ball were met with defiant defence and when the ball was spilled in the tackle, referee Leighton Hodges signalled the end of the match and the end of the visitors' attempts to maintain their winning momentum.

EDINBURGH – G Tonks; L Jones, D Fife (T Visser 67), B Atiga, T Brown; P Francis, S Kennedy; A Jacobsen (J Yapp 66), S Lawrie (R Ford 66), W Nel (G Cross 63), G Gilchrist, S Cox, S McInally, R Rennie , N Talei.

ULSTER – J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding (P Nelson 55), M Allen; P Jackson, P Marshall (M Heaney 59); T Court, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller N Williams (40), L Stevenson, D Tuohy, M McComish, R Diack.

REF – L Hodges (WRU).

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