Ulster Rugby is now up to second in the Magner’s League following a narrow 20-18 victory over the Scarlet’s at Ravenhill. The win was their sixth succession, the first time they have achieved such a feat since they last won the title in 2006 and set ups Brian McLaughlin’s men for their Heineken up quarter final against the Northampton Saints next week.
Ian Humphrey’s on his return from a hamstring injury scored two tries both converted by Ruan Pienaar to set the stage for the victory. The Scarlet’s had taken the lead in the 8th minute thanks to a penalty from Stephen Jones. Pienaar then missed two penalty chances, one a 55 yard effort before Ulster took the lead on 27 minutes with a try from out half Ian Humphrey’s. Humphrey’s finish under the post made the conversion for Pienaar a formality.
Simon Danielli gave Scarlet’s the chance to reduce the deficit when he failed to roll away from a ruck, Stephen Jones kicking the resulting penalty to make it 7-6. Ulster respond was swift however as Pienaar slotted home his first penalty of the night to restore the Northerner’s 4 point advantage.
Another converted penalty on 32 minutes extended Ulster’s lead to 7 points as Ulster headed in at the half time whistle 13-6 ahead.
42 seconds after the restart and Scarlet’s were back in the game thanks to a try from centre Jon Davies which Rhys Priestland missed much to the relief of the home crowd, who were even more relieved a few minutes later when the TMO ruled out an effort from Morgan Stoddart who was adjusted to have knocked the ball on going over the line.
The pressure was lifted when Josh Turnbull was sin binned on 50 minutes for illegal use of the boot but Ulster failed to make the numerical advantage count. Ulster moved 20-11 ahead on 63 minutes when Humphrey’s scored his second try of the evening, with Pienaar converting.
The Scarlet’s made it a nervy last couple of minutes for Ulster when replacement flanker Aaron Shingler intercepted a pass from Pienaar and went over unopposed. Priestland added the conversion but Ulster were able to close the game out with a 20-18 score line.