Ulster V Edinburgh
It was a pulsating, end-to-end contest and one in which Richard Cockerill’s side held the lead for the vast majority of the contest.
However, as Ulster scrum-half, John Cooney, split the uprights with a last gasp penalty it signalled heart breaking defeat for an Edinburgh outfit who were on top for the near entirety of the encounter.
Although credit must be given to the hosts, who overturned a 13-point deficit with only 20 minutes reaming, Edinburgh’s quality in both attack and defence was evident throughout and they will be disheartened to only leave Belfast with a single point.
Although understandably disappointed, Head Coach Richard Cockerill was left proud of his side’s efforts, and said: “It was a good game of rugby from both sides. You knew Ulster were going to have their moment, and that proved to be the case.
“Edinburgh were good tonight. We played really well away from home and gave them the fright of their lives. It’s down to a bounce of the ball, and if we catch the kick-off, we probably go on to win the game.
“You can debate the last decision all you want, but you’ve got to control those things yourself.
Despite losing Scotland international centre Mark Bennett to injury in the first-half, Edinburgh’s backline were an attacking threat all evening - especially when the ball was moved into the hands of their electric back-three.
“I’m very pleased with how we performed tonight,” said Cockerill. “I’m obviously disappointed with the end result, because we would have taken all the points – but those are the lessons we have to learn as a team.
“A draw was probably a fair result. But, it was never going to be a draw, was it? It’s a tough one to take, but the reaction of the crowd on full-time and their relief at wining shows how far we’ve come in the last 14 months.”
It was the perfect start for Edinburgh - who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Ospreys in round one of the competition. Impressive Kiwi stand-off Simon Hickey slotted home two simple penalties to put his side in the driving seat.
And, it was to get better for the visitors on 15 minutes. Following some slick interplay between Jamie Ritchie and Stuart McInally, the ball was eventually fed wide to Tom Brown, who raced over in the corner for his side’s first try of the contest.
It was Brown’s first outing in over 10 months, and the try was just reward for what has been a painstaking return to competitive action.
Although Bennett was carted off the field with a hamstring injury, Edinburgh refused to let the setback upset their adventurous style of play. Hickey would knock over a further penalty and the visitors held a well-earned 6-16 lead at the break.
Edinburgh shot out of the blocks to begin the second half and were soon rewarded with their second try of the evening. Replacement James Johnstone added the finishing touches to a sweeping counter attack and dotted down in the corner.
Ulster answered immediately however, as live wire nine and eventual match winner, Cooney, sprinted over the whitewash to breathe life back into the Kingspan faithful.
And the ‘Ravenhill Roar’ soon played their part as they urged Craig Gilroy over the whitewash from over 50 metres which gave the hosts a 27-26 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
With both sides frantically swapping counter punches, Ulster were penalised at the scrum, which Hickey once again converted to make it 27-29.
But, as Edinburgh were pinged for what appeared to be a fair rip at the breakdown, Ulster’s Cooney kept his cool to drive home the match winning penalty.
A disappointing loss, but Edinburgh have the chance to make amends as they host Connacht at BT Murrayfield a week’s time