Ulster Rugby v Edinburgh
Edinburgh have leapfrogged Ulster into third place in Guinness PRO14 Conference B after replacement Duncan Weir’s stunning last second drop-goal sealed a dramatic one point victory at the Kingspan Stadium.
It was Edinburgh’s first victory in Belfast since September 2009, and only Ulster’s second league defeat at home since October 2016.
The unlikely, but deserved, victory - which gave Richard Cockerill’s side their 10th league win of the season – means that Edinburgh’s play-off hopes are in their own hands heading into the final stage of the season.
Despite the tense finish, Head Coach Richard Cockerill was delighted with his squad’s efforts throughout tonight’s fiercely contested encounter and said: “The one thing this team is learning is to be resilient and stay in the game, and I thought we did that very well tonight.
“Once we got to grips with the initial energy from Ulster in the opening twenty minutes, we showed some real physicality. It’s great win for us as a club, as we’re still trying to develop, and these little milestones along the way are really important – but we’ve still go a long way to go.
“The Edinburgh players should be really proud of themselves tonight. They should take the credit because they’re out there doing it. It puts us in a really good position to try and make the top-three – which at the start of the season was pretty unrealistic – but, now it’s in our own hands.
“We’ve got a lot of tough games to come, with the likes of Munster and Glasgow, but we’re starting to earn a bit of respect in this competition – which is where we want to be.
“I’m just delighted for the playing group, because they’ve worked really hard. We’re consistently staying in the battle. The sum of our parts is far greater than the individual and we’ve now made it a battle for third place.”
After last weekend’s last-gasp victory over Conference B rivals Leinster, Edinburgh came into this evening’s match with the wind in their sails. However, an opening 20-minute blitz from Ulster brought the capital side tumbling back down to earth at a rate of knots.
With Johnny McPhillips at stand-off, the hosts had early success down the wide channels and when John Cooney finished off a sweeping Ulster attack, the hosts grabbed the initial advantage.
However, as Ulster tired, Edinburgh began to find their feet and when Bill Mata was not once, but twice denied a score due to courageous last-ditch defence, you could sense the momentum beginning to turn.
Then, in the 34th minute, Edinburgh struck with a beautifully crafted score. With the ball on half-way, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne broke free and with a defender bearing down, the scrum-half nudged a deft chip into the patch of Jason Harries. As the Welsh winger guided the ball over the whitewash, Edinburgh were right in it.
With the game in the balance, Edinburgh had a chance to take the leading heading half-time, but as Ulster’s ferocious goal-line once again proved too strong, the match was all square at the break.
Much like the initial 40 minutes, Ulster started the half with confidence and a willingness to attack. Two penalties from Cooney once again put the hosts in the driving seat, but Edinburgh would answer back via a powerful effort from Lewis Carmichael.
With the visitors edging into Ulster territory, the bulky second-row collected a well-timed inside ball, before shrugging off a handful of attempted tackles to glide over the try line. Advantage Edinburgh, but not for long.
As Cooney once again nudged over lengthy penalty, the hosts held a one point leading into the final moments. However, Edinburgh – who’s battling spirit has been on show for much of the season – swiftly won the ball back and following a scrum on Ulster’s five-metre line, the ball was fed back to Weir, who hammered home the last kick of the game.