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Seven-up Ulster see off Scarlets in thriller

John Cooney of Ulster after the United Rugby Championship match between Scarlets and Ulster at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales. (Photo By Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Scrum-half John Cooney scored 30 points as Ulster beat Scarlets 55-39 in a 12-try thriller at Parc y Scarlets.


The Irish province always had the edge but Scarlets challenged them throughout, although their cause was not helped by yellow cards for Sam Costelow and Vaea Fifita.

Cooney scored two tries, Alan O’Connor, Martin Moore, Marcus Rea, Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole the others with Cooney converting all seven and adding two penalties.

Dafydd Hughes crossed twice for Scarlets while Jonathan Davies, Ryan Conbeer and Fifita were also on the try-scoring sheet.

Costelow converted three of them and kicked a penalty with Rhys Patchell adding a penalty and a conversion.

Ulster’s start was impressive as they produced five minutes of superb ball retention.

Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey made huge dents in the home defence before O’Connor crashed over to reward their slick handling.

There was to be no immediate let-up for Scarlets as the Irishmen continued in similar vein, forcing the hosts into making countless tackles before Moore forced his way over.


The Welsh region looked in danger of being overrun but they scored with their first excursion into the opposition half.

Ioan Nicholas created the space for Jonathan Davies to squeeze in and moments later they stunned Ulster by picking up a second when a burst from Sione Kalamafoni gave Conbeer the chance to race over.

Costelow missed the conversion but succeeded with a penalty to put his side in front before he was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Aaron Sexton.

It was the outside half’s second yellow card in consecutive games with Sexton having to be replaced.


Ulster capitalised with two converted tries in quick succession.


First Michael Lowry sent Cooney in under the sticks before the full-back again made the running to set up the bonus-point try for Marcus Rea.

Costelow returned after the interval in time to see Fifita intercept and run 45 metres to score before Cooney kicked a penalty and then converted a try from Burns.

Tries continued to come thick and fast with Hughes finishing off a driving line-out for the bonus point with Cooney scoring his second and Ulster’s sixth.

Hughes grabbed his second before Patchell added a penalty but a yellow card for Fifita for a deliberate knock-on put an end to Scarlets’ hopes.

Cooney kicked the resulting penalty and O’Toole had the final say for Ulster with their seventh try.


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Jon 8 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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