Ulster's play-off hopes dented

Ulster 24 Cardiff Blues 24: Cardiff Blues dented Ulster’s hopes of making the Guinness PRO12 play-offs when they carved out a share of the points at the Kingspan Stadium last night.

Ulster's play-off hopes dented

The home side nearly pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat when they finally woke up during a crackling final 10 minutes, but could not force their way past a resolute Blues defence.

Cardiff enjoyed some lightning-quick rucking, with centres Rey Lee-Lo, who grabbed two tries, and Willis Halaholo in particularly devastating form. They deserved all the plaudits.

In harness with Ulster’s lacklustre first-up tackling, the Blues looked a far superior outfit.

Cardiff certainly started with purpose with their assiduous rucking and continuity play having the Ulster defence warming to their task. Ulster, indeed, were lucky just to get away with a Gareth Anscombe penalty in the eighth minute.

That immediately spurred on Ulster with a foraging run by Charles Piutau three minutes later, with Pienaar pushing through a delightful kick for Jackson to control and go over. The Ireland fly-half added the extras himself. Game on.

With Haloholo proving a real menace with his running chicanery, Cardiff bounced back with a try by Sam Warburton in the 23rd minute after the Ulster defence was stretched to the limit. Anscombe landed the conversion, but back bounced Ulster as four minutes later, a rolling line-out drive was pulled down by the Cardiff pack and Welsh referee Ian Davies awarded a penalty try which Jackson made into a seven-pointer.

Cardiff continued to make Ulster work hard on the restart and again the home side fell off tackles, which allowed Halaholo to make ground that ended with his impressive midfield partner, Lee-Lo, going over at the posts in the 48th minute. Anscombe’s conversion made it 17-14 for the Blues and Ulster needed to start playing.

Jackson brought the game level with a penalty in the 56th before Ulster were to easily cut apart again to allow Lee-Lo to virtually walk in for his second try as Cardiff opened up a 24-17 lead on the hour.

Marshall finally applied the cutting edge that Ulster were lacking for most of the game as he sliced through in the 69th minute. With Jackson converting, it was all-square once again. Ulster did find some energy in those final 10 minutes but they couldn’t dig out a winning finish.

Scorers for Ulster:

(Jackson try, 2 conversion; Penalty try)

ULSTER:

J Payne (Stockdale, 42); C Gilroy (Trimble, 56) , L Marshall, S Olding, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick (Black, 75), R Best (Herring, 66) (capt), W Herbst (Ah You, 66), K Treadwell, A O’Connor (Diack, 63), I Henderson, S Reidy, R Wilson (Timoney, 63).

Cardiff scorers:

(Warburton, Lee-Lo 2 Tries, Anscombe penalty, 3 conversions)

CARDIFF BLUES:

R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, B Scully (Morgan, 11); G Anscombe, L Williams; G Jenkins, M Rees (Myhill, 57), T Filise (Assiratti, 40), G Earle (Down, 26), J Hoeata, E Jenkins, S Warburton (Williams, 37) J Navidi.

Referee:

Ian Davies (WRU).

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox