AFTER a poor first hour Edinburgh threw everything they had at Ulster during the last 20 minutes of this pulsating contest but couldn’t find a way past the ferocious visiting defence to snatch a win which would have kept alive their hopes of a home draw in the United rugby Championship play-offs. 

Mike Blair’s team can, however, take comfort from picking up a losing bonus point which means their involvement in the play-offs is guaranteed, although they will face a tough trip to either Ireland or South Africa in the quarter-finals of the knock-out phase. 

“We’re really frustrated because we gave Ulster far too much in the first half and discipline wasn’t good,” said Blair. “We gave away a lot of unforced penalties which allowed Ulster to march up the pitch. 

“But I’m really proud of the guys in the second half when they really gutsed it out with some injury issues. Ulster deserved the win with what they did in the first half. 

“We’ve got Wasps on Saturday in the Challenge Cup quarter-final so we’ll take a couple of days off then regroup for that,” he added. “There is a lot of sore and tired bodies in our squad at the moment.” 

Edinburgh flashed their teeth early with James Lang breaking from deep, although it didn’t end well for the centre who sustained a knee injury when he was eventually stopped on halfway and had to be replaced. 

That was the first of four to leave the field either temporarily or permanently before the game was six minutes old, with Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally particularly unfortunate.  

He needed to go for an HIA after taking a blow to the head from Nick Timoney’s shoulder, with the Ulster flanker being sin-binned as a result, and he was cleared to return to the fray 10 minutes later the club’s co-captain immediately suffered a painful looking ankle injury which ended his involvement in the match. 

Iain Henderson and Stuart McCloskey – two Ulster stalwarts – also left the field during that frantic start and did not return, but that didn’t stop the visitors from taking control of the scoreboard. 

Edinburgh did look sharp when they got the ball in broken play but every time they got behind their opponents they coughed up possession with either a poor pass or by conceding a ruck penalty. Jaco van der Walt jinked through midfield, Emiliano Boffelli found space on the right then released Luke Crosbie who really should have def Damien Hoyland on his outside, and Chris Dean also broke clear but had now support. 

Meanwhile, when Ulster got on the front foot just before the 10-minute mark, they had the composure to patiently build pressure before a gap eventually opened up for winger Robert Baloucoune to scuttle over on the right for the game’s opening try. 

Nathan Doak added the conversion and then kicked two penalties – awarded against Magnus Bradbury for playing the ball on the deck and Hamish Watson for offside – as the visitors built up a 13-0 lead with just over half an hour played. 

Edinburgh rallied during the last few minutes of the half, and an Emilano Boffelli penalty following an offside got them off the mark. 13-3 down looked a lot more promising than being 13-0 down, but there was still a long way back for the hosts. 

Ulster had a golden opportunity to restore their 13-point advantage after three minutes of the restart, but Doak’s effort came back off the right post. 

Edinburgh tidied up the loose ball but decided to run it back at Ulster rather than kick downfield and when Watson knocked-on, it allowed Ulster to keep the pressure on – leading to the scrum-half getting another shot at goal for an off-the-ball shove and this time he made no mistake. 

There was a hold-up just before that while the TMO checked if a Luke Crosbie challenge on Doak was dangerous, but it was decided that the collision was accidental and unavoidable.  

Edinburgh tightened their game up, and a succession of penalties conceded by the visitors eventually led to a yellow-card being shown to Ali O’Connor. The hosts kept banging at the door and finally got a try when Mark Bennett chipped over his man and raced through to ground the ball as it bounced over the line – but that was as close as they got.


Edinburgh: J van der Walt; D Hoyland, M Bennett, J Lang (C Dean 2), E Boffelli; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 57); P Schoeman, S McInally (D Cherry 4-14, 16), W Nel (L Atalifo 61), J Hodgson (P Phillips 62), G Gilchrist, L Crosbie (B Muncaster 49), H Watson, M Bradbury.   

Ulster: M Lowry (R Lyttle 57-71); R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey (S Moore 6), E McIlroy; W Burns, N Doak (J Cooney 49); A Warwick (E O’Sullivan 49), R Herring (B Roberts, 66), G Milasinovich (R Kane, 61), K Treadwell, I Henderson (A O’Connor 4), M Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. 

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)