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Mullins catches himself on in Nick of time on outskirts of Belfast

By Billy Weir

Published 27/10/2016

Ulster's Charles Piutau
Ulster's Charles Piutau

There are certain moments that reaffirm your faith in sport and the Ulster fans' rendition of The Fields of Athenry in memory of Munster great Anthony Foley was one of those genuinely spine-tingling, tear-jerking moments.

There have been countless words spoken and written since the untimely passing of the former Irish captain, but Craig Doyle set the scene perfectly as BT Sport came to Belfast for Ulster's clash with the Exeter Chiefs.

"Ordinarily winning a crunch game like this would mean everything but in a week where we've been given the saddest, harshest perspective on life we remember it's only a game, a big one, but a game to be enjoyed and celebrate this great sport and the wonderful people who pass through it," he said.

It was pitched perfectly and, fittingly, the two teams put on their own tribute with a rip-roaring encounter, with local boys Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten returning home to face their old pals and Ulster's new favourite son, Charles Piutau in the mood to entertain.

Co-commentator Brian O'Driscoll was drooling over the All Black.

"He's absolutely brilliant, when you think he's going to dance around you, he runs over the top of you," he said, although he may well have been watching Ed Balls' Strictly routine on his monitor instead.

And then a faux pas, committed heinously by commentator Nick Mullins.

"You can't beat a night out at the Kingspan, I still hesitate to call it the Kingspan, it's still Ravenhill for folks as old as me, whatever its name it's still a cracking atmosphere," he said, as we all nodded in agreement.

He was back in form as Piutau's mesmeric run set up the chance for Sean Reidy to cross the line, saying the 'rapier set up the try and the bludgeon finished it' but then undid all his good work later.

"If in doubt give it to Forrest Gump," said BOD of Piutau, Mullins giving us a burst of 'run Forrest, run' in what was the worst Saturday night impression since Les Dennis was on Russ Abbott's Madhouse.

"Who was that supposed to be, Nick?" chortled co-co-commentator Ben Kay.

"That was Willy Wonka," replied the crest-fallen Mullins.

The golden ticket, though, was for Piutau, Doyle joining in on the praise by welcoming us 'back to Belfast where Piutau has been the Prince of the Kingspan' and thankful that it was no longer called Ravenhill.

Into the second-half and he was at it again, Mullins commenting that 'the curtain goes up on the Piutau Show' and 'the lights go up, the warning bells are sounding.'

And with good reason as nail-biting stuff ensued, Ulster 16-15 to the good with 73 minutes gone and Mullins had foreboding words.

"Ulster led in Bordeaux with seven minutes remaining and lost, is the same road map unfolding now?" he pondered.

"Steenson back in the pocket, is it to be the fairytale finish for the Belfast boy (from Dungannon)? He's come back and kicked his old team-mates in the backside," and couldn't have been more excited had Bubba arrived with some shrimps.

Moments later Paddy Jackson did the same at the other end to edge Ulster ahead and, when Steenson had his second fairytale of the evening, it wasn't to be the dream ending as his drop goal just drifted past the post.

"What a sensational game of rugby, the tension throughout was absolutely brilliant, almost 18,000 fans inside the Kingspan Stadium on the outskirts of Belfast," concluded Doyle as the people of Ravenhill wondered would their rates now be cheaper after being transported from the city.

So despite all the fancy dan footwork and the kicking prowess on show, a forward's try won the day. Anthony Foley couldn't have wished for a more fitting finale.

Belfast Telegraph

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