Ulster 45 Edinburgh 20
Ulster racked up a bonus point win over Edinburgh with six tries to take their season’s impressive unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions and stay top of the RaboDirect PRO12 League.
Two tries from Jared Payne and single scores from Roger Wilson, the excellent Ruan Pienaar and Craig Gilroy, as well as a first half penalty try, got Ulster home though the much-changed side did not have things all their own way and trailed Edinburgh 10-3 midway through the first half.
Pienaar – who kicked all six conversions and scored a try before departing for Springbok duty – was again a huge presence while Craig Gilroy and substitute Nick Williams put in big games as Edinburgh’s awful season continued.
However, the sight of Stephen Ferris hobbling off in the second half of his first game back in a month will raise further concern over his season with both Ireland and Ulster.
Ulster made the worst possible start and, after a raft of early errors, it was little surprise that the visitors took the lead when winger Tom Brown crossed in the left corner after only 10 minutes following Paul Marshall’s fumble on Ulster’s put-in.
Gregor Hunter’s conversion was good and though Niall O’Connor – on as a blood replacement for Pienaar – slotted a penalty shortly afterwards, Hunter’s 19th minute penalty saw Edinburgh deservedly lead 10-3.
Ulster needed to respond and did so after Roger Wilson – making his first home appearance since returning from Northampton Saints – stole an Edinburgh lineout.
The home side swept up the field and after Chris Cochrane was denied in the left corner from a Jared Payne chip through, Ulster were awarded a penalty try after the third reset.
Pienaar converted to level the scores and then did so again as he helped launch an immediate Ulster counter from the restart which saw the impressive Craig Gilroy make great yardage down the left wing before he put Payne in space for the 30th minute try.
Edinburgh now needed to settle themselves but four minutes later Hunter’s kick was charged down by Pienaar who easily collected and ran in from 40 metres before converting to give Ulster a 24-10 lead and their third try in six minutes.
The Scots hit back when Brown barged over for his second three minutes before the break and Hunter’s conversion made it 24-17 at half-time.
Hunter then made it 24-18 two minutes in before Stephen Ferris – playing his first game in a month – hobbled off the field though the sight of a fully charged Nick Williams arriving clearly lifted Ulster’s spirit.
He put himself about in customary style and with Ulster applying the screw, Marshall took a tap penalty under Edinburgh’s posts and after he was taken high at the line, the ball was spun right to Wilson who scored at the corner for Ulster’s bonus score after the TMO was consulted.
Pienaar converted brilliantly and Ulster now led 31-20 before, after 68 minutes, Payne dashed over for his second under the posts which Pienaar again converted.
After the obligatory raft of substitutions, Gilroy finished the scoring with a try in the 80th minute which Pienaar again converted.