Ulster hold on for victory over Sharks to secure home quarter-final
Tries from Michael Lowry, Stuart McCloskey and James Hume enabled Ulster to claim a home URC quarter-final after they defeated the Sharks 24-21 at the Kingspan Stadium.
Ulster led 24-7 with just over 10 minutes to go before two converted tries from the South Africans, who also needed to win the game to guarantee a home quarter-final, brought the Sharks a losing bonus point.
However, Ulster saw out the win to guarantee themselves a top-four finish.
Following a lively opening with plenty of open play from both sides, the first points fell to Ulster through a 16th-minute John Cooney penalty after the Sharks had been pinged for being offside.
Ten minutes later and with Ulster beginning to get some momentum in the contest – in tandem with the Sharks beginning to make too many errors – the Irish province began to win a series of penalties and put one into the corner.
They moved the ball off the maul and though McCloskey was stifled in the midfield, the ball came back to the busy Billy Burns, who shifted it long and wide to Ethan McIlroy, giving the winger the chance to attack the try line, draw the cover and throw an inside pass to the supporting Lowry, who touched down.
It was no more than Ulster deserved and Cooney’s conversion ensured they had a 10-0 lead.
Though the Sharks continued to give the ball air, they were unable to score and came the nearest to breaking their duck when Curwin Bosch attempted a long-range penalty which went wide, preserving Ulster’s 10-point lead at the break.
That became 17-0 three minutes after the restart when McCloskey smashed through several defenders to score under the posts, allowing Cooney convert.
The Sharks had to respond but were unable to do so until the hour mark when newly arrived substitute Ntuthuko Mchunu was driven over with Bosch converting.
Ulster, though, shut down any prospect of the visitors making further inroads and struck back immediately when Robert Baloucoune and Cooney combined to supply Hume for the Irish province’s third try of the night. Cooney’s conversion put Ulster 24-7 ahead.
However, the Sharks came back with five minutes left through a Marius Louw try and Boeta Chamberlain conversion which closed it to 24-14, and Chamberlain converted again after Grant Williams surged through with two minutes remaining.
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Well done in putting Eddie's stats into perspective Nick. I'd like to see the try/phase stats after discounting tries from rolling mauls and intercepts. Reminds me of the story Rocky Elsom once told about how the Edster figured out that scrums only take up an average of 8 minutes a game. Apparently our Messiah thus concluded that the team should only devote 8 minutes to the scrum at training!Go to comments
Yo Nicholas. The crowd at the Roar told me you'd quit and I'd find your column elsewhere. Great to see you're still on the job. I enjoyed this, and and no wonder I missed you. Over at the other place, on the day before you posted this, I commented on the game against the Reds: "Carter Gordon was another interesting player on the field, although his form wasn’t well showcased in the match, which isn’t to say he didn’t play well, only that he didn’t particularly star. I know virtually nothing about CG, and wonder if I’m seeing a tall thin 10 who holds the ball with both hands and likes to tackle, besides everything else … I dare not say who that reminds me of." I was scared of putting the mocker on him, but now you've said it! Are we seeing the ghost of Bernie? Early days, but he's certainly refreshing.Go to comments