Two tries frome Ulster’s South African full-back Louis Ludik saw them consolidate their second place in the Guinness Pro12 despite a fightback by a brave Cardiff Blues side at the Kingspan Stadium last night.
Ludik had an exceptional all-round game as well as his try in each half with Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall also touching down.
Ulster had engineered a useful 18-0 half-time lead before falling off their pace and intensity to allows Cardiff back in the game 24-17 in the third quarter. Ulster got off to the blistering start as they went through the phases for two minutes 55 seconds and it was left to fly-half Jackson to swing out a long ball to Gilroy who swooped in to score.
Unfortunately Stuart Olding, who had just returned from a 10-week stretch on the sidelines, went down with a leg injury and had to be stretchered off. The motorised stretcher was in use immediately afterwards after Cardiff full-back Rhys Patchell left the field in a neck brace after he took a blow on the side of the head from Ulster’s Nick Williams who was harshly given a yellow card for his sins.
After a brief spell rigorously defending their line, the 14-men Ulster went further ahead when skipper Darren Cave forced a turnover and Pienaar slotted over the penalty. Shortly after they were back to a full compliment again Ulster went further ahead after more great clearing out at the rucks by the hard-working pack, full-back Ludik forced his way over.
Cardiff were never allowed to get anywhere near Ulster’s red zone due mainly to the physicality of the tackling and Ulster pushed further head on the half-hour when Pienaar landed his second penalty.
Cardiff did manage to avail themselves of some territory, but even with yellow card for Franco der Merwe they couldn’t pierce a strong Ulster defence. As in the first-half, Ulster were points up within minutes with Pienaar rattling over his third penalty to stretch them out to 21-0 ahead.
Cardiff finally troubled the scoreboard in the 46th minute with Gareth Anscombe landing a penalty. Cardiff began a bit of confidence and after Ulster let their defence guard slip in the 52nd minute replacement Tom Isaacs scooted in with Anscombe converting.
Henry who had heart surgery following Ireland’s game
However, it was Alex Cuthbert who added to Cardiff’s score-line when he had acres of space to run in try number two that Anscombe also converted. Pienaar restored some of Ulster’s energy with a penalty in the 65th minute before Ludik’s second try set up by a beautifully-judged cross-field by Humphreys, finally saw the end of Cardiff’s challenge. Marshall’s try at the end was the icing on the cake.
Tries: Gilroy, Ludik; Pens: Pienaar 3; Cons: Pienaar , Humphreys
L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave (capt), S Olding (Scholes, 4), M Allen (Humphreys, 68); P Jackson, R Pienaar (Marshall, 70); C Black (Warwick, 71), R Herring, W Herbst (Ross, 65), D Tuohy (Diack, 55), F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Ross (Henry, 58), N Williams.
Tries: Isaacs, Cuthbert; Pens: Anscombe; Cons: Anscombe 2
R Patchell G Davies, 6); A Cuthbert, C Allen (Isaacs, 6), G Evans, L Amorosino; G Anscombe, L Williams (Knoyle, 71); S Hobbs (Filise, 74), M Rees (capt) (Dacey, 58), A Jones (Andrews, 53), J Hoeata (Cook, 66), L Reed, J Turnbull, E Jenkins, J Navidi (Vosawai, 50).
Marius Mitrea (FIR).