AN inspired fightback briefly gave Edinburgh hope of an upset at BT Murrayfield last night, but in the end they were overpowered as Ulster extended their PRO14 winning run to eight games. 

After falling 19-0 down all too easily, Richard Cockerill’s side hit back with two Jack Blain scores to close to 19-14, but a chalked-off Jamie Farndale score saw their recovery sputter out. Ulster were well worth their seven-try victory in the end, with hooker John Andrew scoring three of them.
The Irish side got some good continuity going in their passing play right from the start, and it was no surprise when they opened the scoring after just three minutes. Andrew and scrum-half John Cooney combined before the latter put Stewart Moore through for the try, Cooney converted, and Edinburgh were 7-0 down before they had had a chance to get going.

As well as being more incisive in attack, the visitors were sharper at the breakdown, forcing several turnovers as Edinburgh laboured to set up good position in their opponents’ half. They were forced into an early change when Rob Lyttle was injured, but debutant Aaron Sexton came on and slotted in comfortably. 

It was only a matter of time before Ulster got the second try, and it came midway through the half. A penalty to touch was followed by a solid lineout throw, and Andrew got on the end of the drive to barge his way over the line. Cooney slipped as he made contact with his conversion attempt, but the failure to add the two points seemed no more than academic even at that stage of the game.

The third try came just two minutes later. Another maul powered its way through an ineffectual defence, and when it was halted a metre or two short of the line, Cooney reacted quickly to dart through a gap. The scrum-half was on target with his conversion this time, taking his team’s tally to 19 points.

Stung by the ease with which they had conceded that score, Edinburgh increased their tempo and at last began to put some pressure on Ulster. Just as they had manufactured a promising position, however, after sending a penalty to touch,  a dropped ball by Henry Pyrgos dashed their hopes of a score.

But, to their credit, they were soon back on the attack, and this time they did manage to finish off. The forwards came close, with Lee Roy Atalifo diving over the line only to be held up. The prop somehow succeeded in recycling, and when the ball went out to the backs James Johnstone put Blain in for his first senior try, which Nathan Chamberlain converted. 

Ulster’s attempt to regain the initiative before the break was thwarted by a powerful home scrum, and Edinburgh went in at half-time happy to have edged their way back into the contest. They became happier still five minutes into the second half when Blain flopped over for his second try after good work by Eroni Sau, and when Chamberlain converted an apparently lost cause had become a single-score game. The seven points were a merited reward for the decision to send a penalty to touch rather than going for goal, and for the character Edinburgh were showing to recover from such a poor start to the game. Bill Mata came off the bench for his first appearance following injury, and the arrival of the Fijian gave further impetus to the fightback. 

With 25 minutes to play Farndale thought he had brought his team level with a try after reacting most quickly when a Chamberlain penalty bounced back off an upright, but a TMO replay showed he had been ahead of the kicker so the score was chalked off. It was a correct decision if a cruel one from an Edinburgh point of view, and Ulster responded well to the reprieve, stretching their lead through a lineout drive finished off by Jordi Murphy. 

Mata was yellow-carded for a team offence, Cooney converted to take the lead back up to a dozen points, and the match was as good as over. Cooney and Andrew got their second tries late on to extend their team’s lead, then Andrew completed his hat-trick with the last play of the match.



Edinburgh: Tries: Blain 2. Cons: Chamberlain 2.

Ulster: Tries: Moore, Andrew 3, Cooney 2, Murphy. Cons: Cooney 4. 


Edinburgh: J Blain; E Sau, J Johnstone (A Coombes 70), C Dean, J Farndale; N Chamberlain, H Pyrgos (captain) (C Shiel 68); P Schoeman (S Grahamslaw 78), D Cherry (M Willemse 66), L Atalifo (D Gamble 70), A Ferreira (J Hodgson 54), A Davidson, M Bradbury, L Crosbie (C Boyle 71), A Miller (V Mata 50). 


Ulster: M Lowry; M Faddes, J Hume, S Moore, R Lyttle (A Sexton 8); I Madigan (W Johnston 69), J Cooney (D Shanahan 69); A Warwick (K McCall 49), J Andrew (B Roberts 75), M Moore (G Milasinovich 51), A O’Connor (D O’Connor 64), S Carter (captain), S Reidy (D McCann 69), J Murphy, M Coetzee. 

Referee: C Evans (Wales).

Yellow card: Mata.