Edinburgh v Ulster Rugby
Edinburgh fell short against a slick and well-drilled Ulster outfit in this evening’s Guinness PRO14 encounter.
Despite holding home advantage, the hosts failed to truly control the match and when Iain Henderson crashed over the whitewash late on – securing the bonus-point – Edinburgh’s hopes of a late comeback were cut short.
Richard Cockerill’s side came into the fixture knowing victory would guarantee both a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series and Champions Cup rugby for next season.
However, as Ulster scored three quick-fire first-half tries, Edinburgh were forced to play a risky and at times precarious style of rugby, which unfortunately suited the visitor’s defensive strategy.
Although the loss was Edinburgh’s first league defeat of 2018, it now means the capital side have to win one of their two remaining matches – home fixtures against Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors – to secure a Final Series spot.
Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill was understandably frustrated with the result, and said: “Disappointing all round really. I thought the tries we conceded in the first-half were pretty poor.
“When you concede soft points you lose, it’s as simple as that. The three tries in the first-half were soft.
“Ulster a good side,” Cockerill continued. “And the team they put out there is very good, and we are competing and putting them under pressure. We could have managed that a lot better. Now we have to keep learning and developing”
“We have earned the right to have the opportunity to make the play-offs. Scarlets are coming here next week, who are a fantastic side.
“It’s in our own hands. We still have two games to go and need to take as many points as we can.
We are up for the fight; we will roll up our sleeves and work hard. We still have everything to play for.
Although both sides cancelled each other out during the early exchanges, Edinburgh were the first team on the scoreboard when Duncan Weir slotted home a straightforward penalty.
However, the Irish side were quick to bounce back when Darren Cave finished off an electric line break by Stockdale - to which John Cooney added the extras.
With the wind in their sails, Ulster – led by scrum-half John Cooney – began to boss proceedings.
Two tries in quick succession from Charles Piutau and Cooney, put the visitors in a commanding position, but Edinburgh were quick to answer with a score of their own.
With Ulster attempting to shift the ball wide, Duncan Weir intercepted, sprinting in from 60 metres to reduce the deficient to just six points. Ulster led at the half 13-19.
Cockerill’s men returned from the interval the more threatening of the two sides. Although Edinburgh’s pack showcased their strength in the initial exchanges, it was the visitors struck first via the boot of Cooney.
Edinburgh looked to their bench to lift the team as they camped on the Ulster five-metre line.
And the fresh legs in the front row provided an immediate impact as the Edinburgh pack overwhelmed their Irish counterparts, resulting in a penalty try after a succession of scrummage infringements. The hosts were within one score.
With Edinburgh now dominating, the visitors were awarded a penalty against the run of play when Jamie Ritchie’s last-ditch tackle – which in turn stripped the ball - was deemed to be illegal. And with Cooney slotting home the resulting penalty, Ulster shot back into a five-point lead.
Although it was Edinburgh who appeared the more likely to snatch the all-important sixth try of the evening, it was Ulster who managed to find another gear in the dying embers of the clash.
After building the phases to within metres over Edinburgh’s whitewash, Iain Henderson rumbled over to secure his side the bonus-point