Belfast Telegraph

Ulster get points in the bag, but there's still a lot of work to do

By Michael Sadlier

It was just as well Nick Williams decided that he wanted to play a bit last night.

Before his huge carry in the lead-up to Andrew Trimble's try and then his own second-half effort, when he was on the back of a tremendous rolling maul, Ulster had looked shaky.

That wobbly feeling was there at the end too as Williams rushed in to smash an unfortunate Cardiff player just as you could sense the visitors thought there still might be something to salvage from this strange topsy-turvy game.

Strange? Yes, for Ulster had come through a dodgy first half thanks to Josh Turnbull's boot to Paul Marshall's face - we almost lost count of the number of Ulster backs with blood running down their faces - which might have been red but was probably a good call by referee Ben Whitehouse to opt for yellow.

They had really found their mojo with Turnbull away, with Marshall's try and then man-of-the-match Williams doing likewise.

At 19-9 they looked good with Stuart McCloskey's bonus-point effort taking things to 24-9. And just when you thought all was well, Ulster ended the game as they started it, coughing up more points and inviting the Blues back in.

So, on the one hand we were presented with a maximum point haul, but on the other there was still plenty to be concerned about going forward.

The discipline has still some way to travel before it will hit acceptable levels and the fact that Neil Doak's men failed to totally nail this one from 24-9 is a bit of a worry.

Mind you, getting the likes of Paddy Jackson and Darren Cave back, plus hopefully soon the rest of the Ireland contingent, can only help when it comes to that lack of leadership which seems to be gnawing at this side.

Les Kiss has plenty of work-ons, but for the moment we'll take another five points.

The first half started horribly with penalties being given away willy-nilly, the last thing they needed to do after the off-colour efforts shown at Edinburgh the previous week.

They looked rusty and Rob Herring's early crooked throw summed it all up really. And then there were the knock-ons.

Williams was guilty of it, so too Ian Humphreys, while the only attacking idea seemed to be about giving it to Stuart McCloskey to truck it up.

It was only when Williams finally got into the game - which took 15 minutese - that Ulster finally showed some life.

His trademark charge - clattering bodies as he went - helped set up some decent go-forward and the net result was a try in the corner from Andrew Trimble.

It gave Ulster something just when it looked as if they might implode. Mind you, it didn't mean the errors were cut out.

We had McCloskey knocking on and Humphreys badly skewing a kick. That led to the Blues taking a 9-5 lead and things really looked bad for Ulster until they got a break.

First up, Dan Fish was pinged for hitting Ludik in the air and then after Ulster had got some presence in the Blues' 22 came Josh Turnbull's yellow card for making contact with Paul Marshall's face.

That was the moment when the tide thankfully turned.

Belfast Telegraph


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