Adam D’Arcy dazzles as Ulster see off Leeds
Ulster 19 Leeds Carnegie 16
Ulster outplayed Leeds Carnegie for lengthy periods last night in what was their final pre-season warm-up fixture before the real things gets under way next Friday night.
In the dying moments, though, they were clinging on by their fingertips as Leeds, who staged a late rally, encamped in the Ulster half to which they had been rare visitors after half-time.
The protagonists went into battle off the back of defeats in each of their pre-season outings, Ulster having gone down to Bath and Harlequins, Leeds losing to Agen, Ospreys and Doncaster.
In those games, however, both had fielded mainly young, experimental sides.
Nevertheless, each of them wanted a win ahead of the start of their respective campaigns-proper — for which reason the line-ups included significantly more of their better known names.
Ulster were by far the happier of the pair at half-time by which stage they deservedly led 12-6, following two fine tries, one of them converted. Leeds replied with a brace of penalties.
Certainly Ulster will have been happy with the display — on his debut — of full-back Adam D’Arcy, the 24-year-old Australian who is currently on trial.
With 22 minutes gone, no-one in the 5,313-strong Ravenhill crowd would have raised any objection had he been invited to sign a form there and then.
His first act was to execute a perfect pick-up before making 30-metre break, promptly followed by another example of good hands before confidently evading Leeds wing Semi Tadulala in his own in-goal area.
If that pleased the home supporters, D’Arcy’s part in the creation of Ulster’s second try positively thrilled them. It followed another first-class break which ended with a perfect pass to the impressive Declan Fitzpatrick who in turn put Tommy Seymour away for a lovely score.
The only disappointing note was Niall O’Connor’s failure to add what ought to have been a straightforward conversion.
Ulster’s first try, scored after 15 minutes, went to Darren Cave and it followed a decision to behold. Awarded a penalty deep in the Leeds half they opted to put the ball in touch rather than kick for goal. They won the resultant line-out and three phases later the centre was over.
O’Connor added the extras, Ulster were 7-0 to the good and when Seymour applied the finish to D’Arcy’s work in tanden with Fitzpatrick their lead became one of a dozen unrequited points.
But two Ceiron Thomas penalties in the latter stages of the first half halved the deficit.
In the third quarter Ulster continued to call the shots, showing patience and admirable discipline in going through the phases, retaining and recycling the ball over and over again. Johann Muller’s 62nd minute try was their reward with O’Connor converting to make it 19-6.
In the latter stages, with both sides having made whole substitutions, the game became a lot looser. On the night Ulster deployed 25 players with Leeds using 27.
Two tries by Leeds replacements Warren Fury and James Ticknell in the 66th and 76th minutes left it too close for comfort and had Christian Lewis-Pratt’s goal-kicking been on target the Yorkshire men might well have escaped with a victory they would not have deserved.
They didn’t, and if Ulster can build on that first-half display they could be in business this season.
ULSTER: Adam D'Arcy, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Tommy Seymour; Niall O'Connor, Ian Porter; Bryan Young, Rory Best (captain), Declan Fitzpatrick; Johann Muller, Tim Barker; Stephen Ferris, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg. Replacements: 1Nigel Brady, Paul Karrayannis, Adam Macklin, Ryan Caldwell, TJ Anderson Robbie Diack, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Jonny Shiels, David McIlwaine
LEEDS CARNEGIE: Michael Stephenson; Henry Fa'afili, Luther Burrell, Lee Blackett, Semi Tadulala; Ceiron Thomas, Scott Mathie; Mike MacDonald, Steve Thompson, Phil Swainston; Sean Hohneck, Marco Wentzel (captain); Alfie To'oala, Jacob Rowan, Daniel Browne. Replacements: Andy Titterrell, Gareth Hardy, Miguel Alonso, Tom Denton, Kearnan Myall, Rhys Oakley, Warren Fury, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Lachlan Mackay, James Tincknell, Ollie Denton, Leigh Hinton 28. Juan Gomez
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon