Ulster may have achieved their goal in leapfrogging Benetton in the chase for a Guinness PRO14 knock-out place, but there was mixed news in the aftermath of Saturday’s win over Southern Kings for coach Dan McFarland ahead of next week’s Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster.
Tries by Stuart McCloskey, wingers Rob Lyttle and Robert Baloucoune, along with a couple of tremendous efforts from Marcell Coetzee and John Andrew saw Ulster home to take second place in Conference B. With away games against Glasgow and Edinburgh to follow, and a home date with Leinster to finish the roster, Ulster’s season is now in their own hands.
“In the forefront of our minds is that we have to go to Glasgow and Edinburgh with their Scottish internationals back and we have the best team in Europe in the last game of the season, so we’re under no illusions to the size of the task ahead of us,” said McFarland.
“But we’ve put ourselves into the position that we said we wanted to be in.”
The downside for McFarland is that he has injury problems leading up to Saturday’s Champions Cup game at the Aviva Stadium. Ulster lost Louis Ludik to a leg injury after only eight minutes while young centre James Hume underwent surgery for a fractured ankle and is out for the rest of the season. With veteran Darren Cave picking up bruised ribs and also having to be escorted off on Saturday, and Will Addison’s back spasm also ruling him out, Ulster’s midfield is now thin on the ground. Former Leinster lock Ian Nagle is also ruled out due to the nature of his loan contract.
Scorers for Ulster: (McCloskey, Lyttle, Coetzee, Baloucoune, Andrew tries: Burns 3, Cooney cons).
Scorers for Kings: (Penze, Beyers, Willemse tries; Pretorious 2 con).
ULSTER: L Ludik (M Lowry, 9); R Baloucoune, D Cave (Kernohan, 45), S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, D Shanahan (Cooney, 44); A Warwick (Herbst, 58), R Herring (Andrew, 73), M Moore (O’Toole, 27), A O’Connor (capt), I Nagle (Treadwell, 54), M Rea, N Timoney, M Coetzee (Ross, 54).
SOUTHERN KINGS: U Beyers (Banda, 55); Y Penxe, M Rokoua (Classen, 65), T Kruger, B Basson; B Pretorius, S Ungerer; A Tshakweni (Ferreira, 40), M Willemse (Van Rooyen, 65), DJ Terblanche (Mguca, 55), A Van Schalkwyk, J-C Astle Greeff, 50), H Brown (Ntsila, 55, Williemse, 72), M Burger, R Lerm.
Red card: Tercius Kruger (67);
Yellow card: Alandre Van Rooyen (67).
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU).