Ulster 26-24 Scarlets: Unbeaten Irish province prevail against dogged visitors

Stewart Moore
Stewart Moore’s intercept try increased Ulster’s advantage in the first half
Ulster (19) 26
Tries: Lyttle, S Moore, Reidy, Treadwell Cons: Cooney 2, Johnston
Scarlets (7) 24
Tries: Asquith, Conbeer, S Evans, P Price Con: O’Brien 2

Ulster came through an indisciplined display against a dogged Scarlets to preserve their winning record with a bonus-point victory in Belfast.

Rob Lyttle and Stewart Moore scored for the hosts either side of Paul Asquith’s try, before Sean Reidy’s score put Ulster in command at the break.

Tries from Ryan Conbeer and Steff Evans brought Scarlets to within two points, but Kieran Treadwell’s score gave Ulster enough breathing space to ensure the win despite Phil Price’s late try.

The visitors will rue four missed kicks that allowed Ulster to stay in front throughout, but deservedly take two bonus-points home with them following a thoroughly entertaining display.

Treadwell and wing Matt Faddes both spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for Ulster, who lost centre Luke Marshall to an early knee injury.

Scarlets remain third in Conference B while Ulster will be delighted to have secured maximum points from what was easily their toughest game of the 2020-21 season so far.

Returning fans treated to exciting contest

For the first time since the opening game of the season, some spectators were allowed back inside the Kingspan Stadium and received their money’s worth with the brilliant battle that unfolded on the pitch.

The 1,000 home fans were given something to cheer about after seven minutes when Lyttle collected Faddes’ pass and stepped inside to open the scoring.

The try came shortly after Marshall, who only recently returned following another length injury lay-off, was carted off the pitch after his knee became trapped under a falling Scarlets player.

Angus O'Brien
Angus O’Brien assumed Scarlets’ kicking responsibilities after Dan Jones’ inauspicious start from the tee

Scarlets showed plenty of intent throughout the game but mastered their own downfall on too many occasions, not least from the tee, from which Dan Jones missed two very kickable penalties early in the first half.

When Treadwell was shown yellow for a high tackle on Javan Sebastian, the visitors instantly capitalised with Asquith bursting through a gap to make the numerical advantage count.

Scarlets continued to dominate the territorial game but could not force their way over the whitewash with Ulster winning a vital scrum on their own line just minutes before Moore perfectly read a pass to intercept and run the length of the pitch to extend Ulster’s lead.

Having been well marshalled throughout the opening half, Ulster eventually returned to their close-range power game that has proved so fruitful in the early season, allowing Reidy to surge over with the last act of the opening 40 minutes.

Game Scarlets good value for both bonus-points

After the break it took Scarlets less than two minutes to find the clinical edge that had evaded them in the first half, with Evans’ inch-perfect crossfield kick bouncing perfectly for Conbeer to collect and finish.

Five minutes later Faddes’ high tackle reduced Ulster to 14-men again to put further wind in the visitors’ sails.

When Evans collected Tyler Morgan’s pass to bring the score to 19-17, Scarlets looked like the side more likely to go on and get the next score, but again were guilty of a costly error when Dane Blacker lost the ball on his own five-metre line allowing Ulster to regain and send Treadwell over.

Price’s 76th minute score from a maul set-up a grandstand finish but Ulster kept their opponents at bay until the clock ticked into the red, securing their hardest fought victory of the new campaign.

Ulster: Michael Lowry; Matt Faddes, Luke Marshall, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle; Bill Johnston, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore; Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell; Matty Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Dave O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Craig Gilroy.

Scarlets: Angus O’Brien; Ryan Conbeer, Steff Hughes (capt), Paul Asquith, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Dane Blacker; Rob Evans, Taylor Davies, Javan Sebastian, Sam Lousi, Danny Drake, Ed Kennedy, Jac Morgan, Sione Kalamafoni.

Replacements:Daf Hughes, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Jac Price, Uzair Cassiem, Will Homer, Sam Costelow, Tyler Morgan.

BBC News