Ulster Rugby’s new hero was quality personified on the pitch and modesty personified off it following yesterday’s man-of-the-match performance in what was his competitive debut.
Craig Gilroy, 19, helped himself to the first two of the winners’ five tries, with his spectacular 58th minute solo score opening the floodgates. Boosted by that, Ulster ran in three further tries - Adam D’Arcy, Willie Faloon and Paddy Wallace got those — as Cardiff were swept aside in the final quarter by a relentless white wave. It finished 37-15.
Collecting his award the cherub-faced teenager admitted: “I was really just worried about messing up so it’s just a bonus to get two tries. I just didn’t want to screw up today and I’m glad I didn’t.”
From a team perspective his view of the result was: “It’s definitely a big boost for us. We’ve had two weeks out and we put a lot of work in this week and last.
“That came together today, especially as we were a try down. I think we came back well and went well as a team.
“I know it’s been a while since Ulster beat the Blues (October 2006 at Ravenhill) so I’m glad it happened today on my debut.”
Coach Brian McLaughlin hailed “a moment of brilliance from Craig which set us up for the night”.
“We scored five excellent tries, with his second giving us just the spark we needed. Being able to bring boys like Paddy (Wallace) and Andrew (Trimble) off the bench was a big thing for us in terms of fresh impetus, too, after Ian (Whitten) and Nevin (Spence) had done so well defensively,” he said.
“We were disappointed at half-time because we felt we’d defended very well. That yellow card (against Adam D’Arcy), which left us down to 14, was very harsh, we thought.
“But we’re going home with a bonus point win after a game in which we took our chances.”