Monday 11 December 2017

Ulster maintain momentum

Scarlets' Steven Shingler finished on the losing side at Kingspan Stadium
Scarlets' Steven Shingler finished on the losing side at Kingspan Stadium

Ulster made it four Guinness PRO12 wins in succession to move level with Glasgow at the top of the table, downing Scarlets 25-20 in a hard-fought match.

Tries from Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Ruan Pienaar got Ulster the four points with the South African ending up with 15 points from the final total.

However, Neil Doak's men will be disappointed not to have bagged a bonus win on the night Ian Humphreys won his 100th cap - Kristian Phillips' late try denying them outright leadership of the league.

Tries from John Barclay, sub Phillips and two conversions and the same number of penalties from Steven Shingler brought up the Scarlets' total as they made off with a valuable losing bonus point after they had found themselves trailing 25-13.

A first half interception try for Barclay and a conversion and two penalties from Shingler, against two Pienaar penalties, saw the Scarlets lead 13-6 at half-time.

The Welsh side got things moving with a Shingler penalty in the 13th minute, which made up for his earlier miss on a blustery night at the Kingspan Stadium.

Pienaar was then wide with a 13th minute shot at goal before Shingler also missed again just before the 20-minute mark. But Ulster managed to level the scores in the 23rd minute when Pienaar nailed a penalty after the Scarlets scrum was penalised.

Shingler then nudged the Scarlets in front again with a 27th minute penalty, only for Pienaar to level things again three minutes later.

But with Ulster increasingly forced to play deep in their own half, Humphreys threw a pass which was intercepted by Barclay, who ran in under the posts. Shingler converted and the Scarlets led 13-6 with three minutes on the clock in the first half.

Ulster got a break six minutes after the restart, though, and after Shingler kicked out to the wing, Gilroy collected and set off on a typically mazy run to beat three defenders and score in the right corner.

Pienaar could not land the difficult conversion but Ulster had hope, trailing by just two points.

The hosts then took the lead for the first time. After Rob Herring won an impressive turnover, Humphreys found Marshall running a strong line and he barged over.

Pienaar converted and Ulster led 18-13 after 51 minutes. The South African then got over for a 59th minute try and converted it himself to stretch the advantage to 12 points.

The bonus point seemed a realistic prospect for Ulster - but they failed to get it and the Scarlets had the final say thanks to Phillips' late touchdown.

Press Association

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