McLaughlin’s men blitz Italians before resting on laurels

ULSTER got the massive fillip they wanted ahead of next week’s crucial home Euro date against Biarritz with a comfortable Magners League victory over Treviso, despite failing to register a point in the second half.

With a constant drizzle and bitingly cold wind at Ravenhill, Ulster had too much all-round firepower in the first half, having their bonus point wrapped up after 35 minutes with tries from Ruan Pienaar, Nevin Spence, Adam D’Arcy and skipper Rory Best.

However, coach Brian McLaughlin will be disappointed that his side failed to show that all-important ruthless streak in not adding to their 32-6 lead at the break.

Although conditions were not in their favour, it was the Italians who started the brighter. In typical fashion they kept the ball tight among their pack and they were immediately rewarded with a penalty after five minutes, which their South African fly-half Willem De Waal popped over.

Ian Humphreys levelled things up four minutes later with a similar effort before he instigated a superb opening try for Ulster in the 13th minute. A long 22 drop-out by Treviso found touch just 50 metres downfield and a quick throw-in by Humphreys to Andrew Trimble saw the Ireland winger carve his way upfield.

The ball was then threaded through the hands of Rory Best and Johann Muller before finding its way to Pienaar, who sprinted in midway out, with Humphreys adding the extras.

Midway through a fairly tame half, Treviso pulled back three points with the boot of De Waal, only for Humphreys to answer back with a brilliant effort from the halfway line.

Ulster’s second try in the 25th minute was tinged with a little luck, although D’Arcy’s scything break from halfway was telling. Although his pass to Spence was a little wayward, the blond-haired centre managed to get his boot to the ball, which wrong-footed the Treviso defence, and he followed up to touch down.

Humphreys converted as he did with Ulster’s third try, which stemmed from a quick penalty taken deep in their own half by Pienaar. Wallace and then Trimble took the ball on and although Pienaar was caught 15 metres out, Pedrie Wannenburg tidied up to feed D’Arcy, who spun out of a tackle to crash in under the posts.

It was all Ulster as they continually exploited holes in Treviso’s defence, and it was no surprise when their bonus arrived five minutes before half-time. It was catch and drive at a five-metre line-out that allowed skipper Best to burrow his way over.

The sight of Stephen Ferris coming off the bench in the 47th minute didn’t frighten Treviso as they barnstormed their way upfield after the break, with lock Gonzalo Padro crashing over and De Waal converting.

The game basically died a death in the second half with the Italian side unlucky not to have picked up another try near the end with the score by scrum-half Fabio Semenzato ruled out when it went upstairs.

Not a brilliant performance by any means for Ulster, but a win will at least act as a springboard for next week’s crucial game.

Scorers for Ulster: R Pienaar, N Spence, A D’Arcy, R Best try each; I Humphreys 3 cons, 2 pens.

Scorers for Treviso: D Padro try; De Waal con, 2 pens.

ULSTER: A D’Arcy; A Trimble (McIlwaine, 50), N Spence (Whitten, 77) P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (Marshall, 40); T Court (Young, 76), R Best (capt, Brady, 77), BJ Botha (Fitzpatrick, 67), J Muller, T Barker (Tuohy, 48), C Henry, W Faloon (Ferris, 47), P Wannenburg.

TREVISO: K Burton; L Nitoglia, T Benvenuti (Gonzalo, 46), A Sgarbi, A Vilk; W de Waal, F Semenzato; I Fernandez Ruoyet Allori (59), L Ghiraldini, capt (Sbaragli9ni, 59), L Cittadini (Di Santo, 59), D Padro, C van Zyl, M Filipucci (Derbyshire, 67), A Zanni, M Vosawai (F Minto, 46).

Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU).

Cardiff Blues 24 Aironi 13

THE Blues began 2011 with a victory which put them into the Magners League play-off positions — but they struggled to see off the only team in the competition without a win all season.

Scorers for Cardiff Blues: Tries: Halfpenny, Thomas. Cons: Sweeney. Pens: Sweeney 2, Parks. Drop Goals: Sweeney. Scorers for Aironi: Tries: Krause. Cons: Marshall. Pens: Buso 2.

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