Ruthless Ulster back in the groove
Losing run is over
Ulster 32 Treviso 13: After two holiday period defeats, Ulster put themselves back on track in the Magners League last night with a comprehensive home win over Benetton Treviso.
Every pre-match statistic had pointed to a home victory. The guests had not won a competitive match beyond the shores of Italy since December 2007 when they beat Newport Gwent Dragons in a Heineken Cup fixture at Rodney Parade.
Brian McLaughlin’s side were winners of the protagonists’ first-ever Magners League clash back in November when they won 19-9 in Italy. Indeed, Ulster had beaten Treviso in each of their five previous meetings over the years.
Against that, in addition to losing each of their previous two Magners League outings, the hosts had shipped seven tries and 65 points in the process. Treviso, in contrast, rode into Belfast on the back of a festive season home and away double over Italian rivals, Aironi.
They made a confident start too, with fly-half Willem de Waal slotting over a fourth minute penalty from left of centre on the 22 with the ultimate damage stemming from an initial error
by Adam D’Arcy when he spilled a simple pass from Andrew Trimble.
Ulster absorbed the blow and replied to this unexpected assault on their pride by levelling the scores five minutes later when man-of-the-match Ian Humphreys was on target with a fine kick off the tee from wide left.
That kick-started Ulster, who went ahead from a glorious 13th minute try.
Humphreys began the passage with his speed of thought in taking a line-out launching the move, but it was Trimble whose thrust opened up the visitors’ defence.
Skipper Rory Best did remarkably well to keep up with the wing and take his pass before feeding lock Johann Muller who put fellow-South African Ruan Pienaar in for the night’s first try.
Humphreys converted to put Ulster 10-3 up and although de Waal replied with a penalty that was merely a blip, such was the home side’s dominance.
Humphreys responded in kind and by half-time they had a bonus point in the bag having added three further tries.
Nevin Spence got the first of those in the 25th minute, making the most of a kind bounce to finish a move started by D’Arcy. D’Arcy himself was next over the line, rounding off a passage begun by Pienaar’s quick penalty, continued by Paddy Wallace — making his 150th Ulster appearance — Trimble and Wannenburg.
Humphreys added the extras on both occasions to make it 11 successive successful pots at the posts in all competitions. As a result Ulster led 27-6 with almost 10
minutes of the first-half remaining.
Captain Best had the distinction of scoring the bonus-clinching fourth try, getting over courtesy of a typical piece of courage and tenacity from a line-out close to the Treviso line. Humphreys was unable to provide the conversion from, but leading 32-6 at half-time Ulster weren’t too worried.
They withdrew Pienaar and introduced Paul Marshall during the break, before replacing Willie Faloon and Tim Barker with Stephen Ferris and Dan Tuohy 10 minutes into the second-half.
They also withdrew into their shells, witness 40 second-half minutes without a solitary point.
Treviso refused to quit and they were rewarded when second row Gonzalo Padrò promptly got through the switched-off home rearguard leaving De Waal to convert to make it 32-13.
Ulster appeared to be content with what they had done before the interval, though Ferris showed he was in no mood to compromise when he made a bone-crunching tackle to stop an Italian forward in his tracks as tenacious, but limited Treviso tried to maul their way over.
In the 88th minute, with icy sleet and rain falling on the watching 6,651 who braved the cold, scrum-half Fabio Semenzato thought he had got over, too, but video evidence proved otherwise.
Not an epic by any means, but five points in the right column from an Ulster perspective.