Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Magners League: Ulster in control after trying time

It wasn't just the fact that Ulster took a maximum five points against Cardiff on Friday night by scoring four tries, it was the manner in which they did it.

The 32-13 bonus point win over the Blues puts Ulster's play-off destiny in their own hands and with four of their remaining seven Magners League games at home Brian McLaughlin's men are in with a real chance of making the top four.

Despite missing Rory Best, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace and Simon Danielli, Ulster showed their attention straight from the kick-off and nearly scored in the first minute when Craig Gilroy had a try disallowed.

Once again Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys ran the show, the South African scrum-half was majestic and threw a great dummy before scoring his fourth try in an Ulster shirt.

His half-back partner Humphreys just shaded the man-of-the-match award and he looked hungry after missing the Scarlets victory. Humphreys set up three of the four tries and kicked three conversions and two penalties.

Although he missed his first kick of the night, from the drop out he caught his own chip and chase and unselfishly put Gilroy over for the first try.

“I was frustrated to miss the penalty because we set high standards for ourselves, but seven points is better than three,” stated Humphreys.

It was a prefect night for running rugby and with Ulster having plenty of strike runners the conditions suited McLaughlin's side.

“I don't think we have had a night like that since pre-season and that showed in how both ourselves and Cardiff wanted to play the game,” added Humphreys.

“Both teams were positive and that is probably the quickest game I've played in a long time, I think it was credit to us that we kept plugging away and it was nice to get the four tries.”

Ulster will be targeting wins in their remaining home games with three of the four against sides below them in the table, but Humphreys feels the team are also capable of winning their matches on the road.

“It's great that we have four of our last seven games at home. The fans were brilliant against Cardiff and we know if we play like that every week they will turn out and support us,” added the out-half.

“I think we have also shown this season that we can go on the road and get victories and as much as we love playing at home there is no reason why we can’t win the away games too.”

Ulster face bottom of the table Aironi at Ravenhill on Friday night and while on paper it should be a five pointer Humphreys isn't under estimating the Italians.

“We have already played them three times so we know what they are like. I don't think anybody can look into the previous results because in the last game they maybe didn't play their strongest team,” said Humphreys.

“It's the kind of game that if you don't go into fully prepared you could slip up on, but it's the kind of game at home we have to win if we have aspirations of the top four.”

The Cardiff match was another night were McLaughlin's young guns stood up to be counted especially the midfield partnership of Nevin Spence and Luke Marshall.

The only thing Spence's performance lacked was a try. Marshall finished his first try in an Ulster shirt with aplomb and had a very good all round game.

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Munster yesterday restored their nine point lead at the top of the Magners League with a 20-10 victory away to Aironi.

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