Marcell Coetzee marked his comeback for Ulster with one of their five tries in a 33-19 Guinness PRO14 win over the Southern Kings.
Ulster’s fourth consecutive PRO14 win gives head coach Dan McFarland’s squad significant momentum going into next weekend’s European Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster but also moved them up a place to second in Conference B, four points ahead of Benetton Rugby with three regulation games remaining.
South Africa international Coetzee, who returned to action for the first time since January, scored Ulster’s third try after Stuart McCloskey and Rob Lyttle had already crossed the Kings’ line.
The Kings were cut to 13 men with just over 10 minutes remaining when centre Tertius Kruger was red-carded by Scottish referee Lloyd Linton, who also yellow-carded replacement hooker Alandre Van Rooyen for an incident which saw Baloucoune illegally taken out.
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The South Africans scored three earlier tries through Yaw Penxe, Ulrich Beyers and Michael Willemse – the latter’s in the second half – and had cut Ulster’s lead from 14-0 to 14-12 in the first half prior to Coetzee’s score.
McCloskey crashed over in the left corner for Ulster’s first try on seven minutes and Burns added a great touchline conversion.
Five minutes later and Lyttle had Ulster’s second after some nice footwork from Michael Lowry, who had come on for the injured Louis Ludik. Burns again converted to put Ulster 14-0 ahead.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) February 6, 2019
The Kings struck back on 21 minutes when winger Penxe rounded Lyttle after some great approach work by the visiting forwards, though Bader Pretorious failed to convert.
The TMO then intervened to award full-back Ulrich Beyers a score in the 26th minute after what had first appeared a knock-on – when receiving a pass from Meli Rokoua – was shown to have bounced off the Kings’ player’s chest and leg before he touched the ball down.
Pretorious converted to cut Ulster’s lead to 14-12.
Ulster, now also without Marty Moore who had retired with a knock, responded seven minutes later when Coetzee drove over from close range and Burns’ conversion made the half-time score 21-12.
Ulster secured their try bonus when Baloucoune scored in the right corner eight minutes into the second half after the home side had won several penalties and put them all to the corner. Replacement John Cooney added a great conversion.
Hooker Willemse drove over on 63 minutes, with Pretorious converting, to put Kings 28-19 behind but they were reduced to 13 men after Kruger was red-carded and Van Rooyen shown yellow after Baloucoune had been illegally taken out.
Replacement Andrew scored off a maul in the 76th minute, Cooney missing the conversion, to round it all off.
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