Belfast Telegraph

Ulster earn victory over Cardiff Blues in a hard-fought encounter

Kiss has reasons to feel positive but errors are still creeping into play

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster made it two wins in succession in a hard-fought and mostly scrappy encounter on Cardiff's artificial surface with second-half tries from Dan Tuohy and Ian Humphreys sealing the deal for the visitors.

It was also their first win on the road this season and sees interim coach Les Kiss's men stay unbeaten after their opening three games following on from the high-scoring draw at the Scarlets on their initial outing.

Paddy Jackson kicked four penalties and a conversion on his first time out while Humphreys added the extras to his 74th minute intercept score on a night when Ulster's driving maul was their main weapon along with another strong showing from their scrummage.

However, even though they were good value for their win, and didn't concede a try, there were again too many errors for Kiss's liking while the sight of Tuohy leaving the action holding the arm he fractured last season is also a major worry.

The game started at some pace and shortly after Tommy Bowe marked his comeback with a neat break, Ulster made their field position count when they impressively won a penalty off a scrum.

Jackson stepped up and slotted the seventh minute penalty after Andy Warwick appeared to win the penalty off Wales and Lions veteran Adam Jones.

The game then became a bit scrappy with Robbie Diack being notably dumped in a tackle by Blues prop Sam Hobbs and Louis Ludik knocking on a straightforward pass from Paul Marshall shortly after Ulster had won a lineout turnover.

Then in the 19th minute, Blues scrum half Lewis Jones broke through a gap which ultimately saw Ulster's scrambling defence concede a penalty near their line and Rhys Patchell tied the scores on 21 minutes.

Ulster responded shortly afterwards with Nick Williams bursting clear to link with Bowe but the move came to nothing after the Blues knocked on after the ball went loose.

From the scrum, though, Ulster coughed up possession after a poor pass from Marshall was countered with Patchell breezing past Andrew Trimble before being bundled into touch.

Things hardly improved shortly afterwards when, from an Ulster scrum going backwards, Williams flicked the ball back to Marshall but it went loose and Chris Henry was pinged for diving on possession from an offside position.

The upshot of Ulster's sloppiness was Patchell's second penalty to put the home side in front but they had a quick shot at redemption after Manoa Vosawai strayed offside and Jackson nailed the long range penalty attempt to level the scores on the half hour mark.

Yet again, though, Ulster made a mess of possession after a great driving maul off the lineout but, once more, some poor work from the Blues at the breakdown won the visitors a penalty and Jackson stepped up and put his side 9-6 in the lead after 34 minutes.

The pendulum then swung again and from the restart, Ulster were pinged at the breakdown and Patchell levelled the scores at 9-9.

Just before half-time, though, Ulster again drove a maul off a lineout take by Franco van der Merwe and after Adam Jones pulled it down, referee Neil Patterson gave the visitors the penalty and Jackson gave Ulster a 12-9 lead as the first half ended.

Callum Black entered the action on the resumption in place of Warwick which seemed to indicate that Ulster were less than happy with how their set-piece was going.

And the penalties kept mounting with Henry guilty of a block for Trimble and then Darren Cave was punished for sloppy work at the breakdown.

Ulster reacted by gathering themselves for a big scrum and Wiehahn Herbst turned Hobbs to give Jackson a long range chance which he saw drop short on 49 minutes.

Still, Ulster took the resulting lineout and another excellent maul brought the play right up to the Blues' line before Jones was again penalised and instead of kicking for touch, Jackson opted to kick for the corner.

Even though they failed to get the momentum they would have liked from their attempt at a driving maul, they finally managed to get some quick ball and a short inside pass from Marshall to Tuohy saw the second row burst through to score his third try in as many games.

Jackson converted Tuohy's 51st minute effort and Ulster led 19-9. Not surprisingly, though, the Blues surged back and should have scored, three minutes later, only for Patchell's pass to go slightly behind Richard Smith.

Ulster rang the changes on the hour mark with Craig Gilroy, Humphreys and Roger Wilson coming on for Cave, Jackson and Williams respectively though Tuohy then worryingly appeared to injure the same forearm that he fractured last season.

Bowe was then called back as he crossed the line with Humphreys having been adjudged to have thrown a forward pass after Gilroy made some ground.

Then, Ulster's defence held firm under pressure from the Blues but when they went up the field and launched two more than useful driving mauls, Marshall was adjudged to have knocked on.

Still, they managed to bottle up the Blues in their own 22 with the net result that Humphreys intercepted Gareth Davies's pass to score and convert his own 74th minute effort to make it 26-9 to seal the win.

Cardiff Blues 9-26 Ulster: Points are all that matter in no-frill victory 

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