Ulster struggled to defeat a weakened Scarlets side at the Kingspan Stadium last night.
Ulster led 11-0 at the break with Louis Ludik grabbing the try and returning Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson kicking two penalties. Jackson landed a second penalty late in the game while big Iain Henderson grabbed the second try with the last play of the game.
Jackson opened Ulster’s account with a wide-angled penalty after 10 minutes and added a second from the opposite side of the pitch in the 17th minute.
Then came a sumptious try starting with Craig Gilroy fielding a long defensive kick by Jonathon Davies just inside his own half before linking up with Piutau.
The All Black quickly fired a long pass out wide before Jacob Stockdale was set free on the left touchline and when the big wing was closed down, he flipped an inside pass to Ludik who crashed over. Classic stuff.
That was nearly bettered midway through the half with a superb three-quarter line move in which the whole backline handled and in the end left Gilroy scampering into the right corner only to be baulked into touch with the try line beckoning.
There was a rare glimpse of Piutau showing he was only human at the start of the second half with a rare mistake when he fluffed a simple pass to Stockdale which would have resulted in a certain try.
Scarlets got their first points on the board in the 47th minute when Patchell flicked over a penalty.
The game rarely rose above the mediocre in the final 30 minutes with Ulster just keeping their noses in front at 14-3 with a third Jackson penalty in the 70th minute. That slender lead was cut finer when Scarlets scored their only try with Will Boyde crashing over in the corner with Patchell’s conversion rebounding back off the upright.
However, any shattered nerves were rebuilt at the end when replacement Henderson crashed over to give Ulster the points, but it was a performance that was lacking in many respects, particularly that apparent evening off in the second half.
Scorers for Ulster:
(Jackson 3 pens; Ludik, Henderson tries)
Scorers for Scarlets:
(Patchell pen; Boyde try)
C Piutau; C Gilroy, S Olding (Marshall, 65; Lyttle, 69), S McCloskey (Lloyd, 65), L Ludik; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black (Warwick, 63), R Herring, capt, R Ah You (Kane, 52), P Browne (van der Merwe, 56), A O’Connor, C Ross (Henderson, 40), S Reidy, R Diack.
A Thomas (G Davies, 59), L Williams, J Davies, H Parkes, S Evans (Hughes, 75), R Patchell, G Davies( A Davies, 57); W Jones (Garret, 69), K Owens, capt (Elias, 79), W Kruger (Edwards, 50), J Ball, D Bulbring, L Rawlins (Beirne, 67), J Davies, J Barclay (Boyd, 63).
Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
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