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Last-minute John Cooney penalty lifts Ulster to victory over Cardiff

By PA
Dave McCann of Ulster scores. Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

A last-gasp penalty from John Cooney saw Ulster keep their United Rugby Championship play-off hopes on track with a 19-17 win over Cardiff after being behind for most of the game at the Kingspan Stadium.

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Theo Cabango went over for a pair of tries for the visitors with Tinus de Beer converting both and adding a penalty.

David McCann scored Ulster’s only try but a pair of penalties from Nathan Doak and two and a conversion from Cooney proved crucial.

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Cardiff opened the scoring after 11 minutes when winger Cabango ran through some soft defence after coming in on an angle from a lineout. De Beer converted to put the visitors 7-0 ahead.

This had followed an error-ridden opening period from the Irish province which had seen Doak miss touch with two penalties and Will Addison throw a forward pass to Michael Lowry.

There were no further scores until the 27th minute – by which stage Ulster had lost centre James Hume to injury – when Doak got Ulster off the mark with a penalty much to the relief of the home crowd.

After failing to score from two driving mauls, Ulster did register a score, Doak landing the penalty to narrow Cardiff’s lead to a solitary point.

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Points Flow Chart

Ulster win +2
Time in lead
7
Mins in lead
63
9%
% Of Game In Lead
79%
82%
Possession Last 10 min
18%
3
Points Last 10 min
3

The new half opened with Cabango’s second try, the winger skinning Ulster out wide and arcing in to score under the posts and allow De Beer the conversion to take Cardiff’s lead to 14-6.

More damage then came Ulster’s way when Jacob Stockdale was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on after 48 minutes though the province survived his 10-minute absence without conceding.

Indeed, just before Stockdale returned a penalty was kicked to the corner and though the possession was scrappy, McCann was the one to surge over the line.

John Cooney, on for Doak, converted and Cardiff now led 14-13.

Cooney then stepped up again and kicked a long-range effort in the 65th minute when Cardiff were penalised at a breakdown, putting the home team in the lead for the first time in the game.

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Then with less than 10 minutes to go Jude Postlethwaite was pinged at a breakdown and De Beer put the visitors back in the lead.

With two minutes remaining, and Ulster on the attack Rhys Carre was adjudged to have knocked on from Cooney’s pass and play was called back – Cabango having scored what he believed was his hat-trick at the other end – the replacement hooker was yellow carded, and Cooney was presented with the chance to go for the posts.

He nailed it and Ulster held on for what remained to win.

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J
Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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