Ulster wing Timoci Nagusa continued his recent excellent scoring run by touching down against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday.
It was the fourth successive match in which the 22-year-old Fijian flier had scored, for in his previous three outings he had crossed the Connacht, Scarlets and Bath goal lines.
Saturday’s try against Edinburgh in the Scottish capital was opportunism at its best, with the wing swooping to score following good work by the Ulster pack. Edinburgh could only look on in near-disbelief as he responded fastest to break for the line, so giving Ulster their first points of the afternoon.
It was a perfect example of the former Fijian Police Tactical Response Group officer’s speed of thought and action.
Significantly, when he made his exit on the hour, Nagusa left a match in which Ulster were just beginning to come under intense pressure. Ultimately, that was to prove their undoing.
And it was his replacement, Edinburgh-born Scottish international wing Simon Danielli, playing on his international home stage, who had the misfortune to miss a tackle on Edinburgh’s Tim Visser, allowing the 22-year-old to make it to the line despite Ian Humphreys’ gallant last-ditch attempt to deny the 6’ 4” and 16st 9lb Dutchman.
Humphreys — a less imposing 5’ 11” and 13st 1lb — went close to achieving his lofty objective for it was only after closely scrutinised video consultation that the try, which gave Edinburgh a 14-13 lead, finally and crucially was ruled to be good.
In terms of their own points-scoring, Saturday was Ulster’s least productive day since the start of the competitive season.
On September 6, when they went down 23-6 to Newport Gwent Dragons, a brace of Humphreys’ penalties was all they had to show at the end of a hard shift at Rodney Parade.
Since then they have scored 147 points, including 16 tries — 20 (three tries) against Ospreys; 13 (one try) against Edinburgh in the Magners League; 30 (four tries) against Connacht; 45 (five tries) against Scarlets; 26 (two tries) against Bath and 13 (one try) against Edinburgh.
Yesterday there was no confirmation from within Newforge of Nagusa’s state of health following his second-half withdrawal last weekend and with the squad for Saturday evening’s home date with Leinster being announced at lunchtime tomorrow, it may well be a matter of crossing fingers and waiting for the verdict in the hope that, when that comes, it is favourable and he is given the all-clear to resume.
Ulster’s depressingly poor Magners League record against Leinster underlines the need to have a full-strength panel if they are to meet this challenge. And as any follower of Brian McLaughlin’s side will confirm, most certainly that includes a fully-fit Nagusa.