Ulster will have an anxious wait before knowing whether explosive flanker Stephen Ferris will be available for next Sunday’s European shoot-out with Munster at Thomond Park.
Ferris hobbled off during Ulster’s easy bonus-point victory over Aironi at Ravenhill last night after twisting his ankle and will go for a scan on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. The incident occurred in the first-half when he attempted to make a tackle but landed awkwardly and the ankle is now believed to be heavily swollen.
Meanwhile, the victory keeps them very much in the hunt for the league as their six-try romp takes them level on points with Glasgow but into fourth place on points difference.
Ulster crossed the whitewash at regular intervals through Paddy Wallace, Rory Best, Darren Cave, Tom Court, Pedrie Wannenburg and a penalty try with Ruan Pienaar kicking 11 points and Ian Humphreys also adding a couple of conversions.
After an anxious start it took Ulster 13 minutes to get the scoreboard turning. An alert Best took the ball off an Aironi line-out and after quick recycling, Humphreys delayed a pass for the astute Wallace to run-in under the posts for Pienaar to convert.
In the meantime we were treated to some great individual skills, twice by Craig Gilroy taking high balls at speed, then the subtle handling skills of All Black prop John Afoa.
Afoa had a big hand in Ulster’s second try in the 22nd minute when his scrummaging acumen helped dismantle Aironi’s scrum three times near their own line which gave Belfast-born referee Neil Patterson no option but to award the maximum penalty which Pienaar again converted.
An innocuous-looking tackle by Ferris saw him fail to get up and two minutes later he limped off to be replaced by Willie Faloon. No sooner had he departed than Aironi scored with a training ground routine at a five-metre line-out with prop Alberto De Marchi taking the ball at the front and feeding scrum-half Tito Tebaldi who surged through a yawning gap to score.
Naas Olivier converted from out wide, but Ulster responded immediately with a Pienaar penalty. Then with Toniolatti yellow-carded for hands in the ruck, a driving line-out by Ulster allowed Best to drive over with Pienaar to add the extras from wide out.
It took Ulster five minutes after the restart to rack up the bonus point. Best again snaffled a wayward throw at the tail to set up a ruck and the ball was moved quickly through Humphreys with Wallace giving the scoring pass to Cave.
A typical quick tap penalty by replacement Marshall set-up Ulster’s fifth try just past the hour mark with Court rumbling over with Humphreys striking a perfect conversion.
Humphreys, who had a splendid all-round game, did likewise with Wannenburg’s try at the death as he celebrated his 50th cap for Ulster.
Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Wallace, Penalty, Best, Cave. Court, Wannenburg. Pen: Pienaar Cons: Pienaar 4, Humphreys 2
Scorers for Aironi: Tries : Tebaldi; Con: Naas
ULSTER: S Terblanche; A Trimble, P Wallace (D’Arcy, 64), D Cave, C Gilroy (Whitten, 60); I Humphreys, R Pienaar (Marshall, 62); T Court (Macken, 72), R Best (Brady, 54), J Afoa (McAllister, 54), J Muller, capt, L Stevenson (Tuohy, 54); S Ferris (Faloon, 32), C Henry, P Wannenburg.
AIRONI: G Toniolatti; S Sinoti, R Quartaroli (Pavan, 46), M Pratichetti, G Venditti; N Olivier, Tito Tebaldi (Orquera, 60); Alberto de Marchi (De Marchi, 59), F Ongaro (Denti, 59), F Staibano (Perugini, 56), G Biagi, C del Fava (capt) (Geldenhuys, 52); J Furno, N Cattina, M Bergamasco (Ferrarini, 49).
Referee: N Patterson (Scotland).
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