Cave hat-trick gives Ulster some late Euro consolation
Ulster 26 Leicester 7
Ulster finished their disappointing European campaign with a bonus-point victory over the Leicester Tigers at the Kinspan Stadium.
The English Premiership side arrived in Belfast with slim hopes of making the quarter-finals but needed a bonus point and other results to go their way but it was Neil Doak's side that claimed the five points, bouncing back from a record competition defeat in Toulon the previous week.
Ireland loose forward Iain Henderson made his seasonal debut after seven months on the injury list and put in an impressive shift for 58 minutes, bringing a physical ball-carrying presence which has been missing in the Ulster pack and has probably enhanced his chances ofseeing action in the Six Nations.
Ulster took the lead on 19 minutes with a try from centre Darren Cave, a hat-trick hero on the night. Tommy Bowe started the moved as he came on to a crash ball and carried into the Tigers' 22. Ulster's forwards did a series of pick and goes which created an overlap and Jared Payne spun the ball wide for Cave to finish in the corner but Ian Humphreys was wide with the conversion.
Leicester enjoyed large spells of territory and possession but when they got into the Ulster 22 poor execution cost them points. Cave named in the extended Ireland squad this week got Ulster's second try on 38 minutes. Ulster won quick ruck ball in the Tigers 22 Ruan Pienaar fed Humphreys who took a tackle before offloading to Cave to go over for his second try. Pienaar's conversion gave Ulster a 12-0 lead at the interval.
Cave completed his hat trick of tries three minutes after the restart. Following a good work from the forwards, Humphreys fed Bowe he spun the ball wide and Cave was able to hold of two tackles and stretch out for the touchdown with Pienaar converted.
Ulster nearly added another try as from the restart Craig Gilroy ran the ball from his own half into the Tigers 22 spinning out of two tackles and offloading to Mike McComish but he was tackled in sight of the try line. Leicester had centre Vereniki Goneva sin binned on 45 minutes for a high tackle on Payne.
Ulster made their numerical advantage count four minutes later as Gilroy went over for the bonus-point try. From a scrum in from of the posts the ball was moved wide to Payne, he drew the last two defenders before popping to Gilroy to finish in the corner a Pienaar converted from a tight angle.
Leicester got their first points on the board on 56 minutes following a scrum the forwards worked the ball through a number of phases before winger Adam Thompstone went over in the corner and out half Freddie Burns converted.
Ulster had prop Callum Black yellow-carded on 61 minutes for pulling the maul down but Leicester couldn't make their possession and territorial advantage count.
Scorers - Ulster: D Cave 3 tries; C Gilroy try; Pienaar 3 cons. Leicester: A Thompstone try; F Burns con.
Ulster: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best, W Herbst; A O'Connor F Van Der Merwe; I Henderson, M McComish, R Wilson. Reps: R Herring for Best (74), B Ross for Black (74), L Stevenson for O'Connor (65), C Ross for McComish (45), N McComb for Henderson (58).
Leicester: M Tait; A Thompstone, V Goneva, S Bai, M Benjamin; F Burns, B Youngs, M Ayerza, T Youngs, L Mulipola; G Kitchener, G Parling; T Croft, J Salvi, J Crane. Reps: L Ghiraldini for T Youngs (56), M Rizzo for Ayerza (56), F Balmain for Mulipola (56), S De Chaves for Parling (3), R Barbieri for Crane (56), S Harrison for T Youngs (70), N Morris for Thompstone (70).
Referee: P Guazere
Sunday Indo Sport