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Darren Cave plays it to the max for Ulster


Well done: Ulster fans congratulate Darren Cave after his man of the match performance against Scarlets on Saturday

Well done: Ulster fans congratulate Darren Cave after his man of the match performance against Scarlets on Saturday

Well done: Ulster fans congratulate Darren Cave after his man of the match performance against Scarlets on Saturday

Had Jared Payne been fit and he would probably not have made the starting side, so for Darren Cave this was another opportunity there for the taking to gently remind us of what he can do.

And how he delivered, not only scoring Ulster's first try but also providing the assist for their second and being involved in the move for the third as well when Ruan Pienaar's wrap-around sent Tommy Bowe on his way to the corner.

The official post-match stats brought further credit to Cave's industrious evening as he topped the carries for his side with 56 metres made - only the Scarlets' Rhys Priestland and Liam Williams had more - and he also featured on the tackle count with six, one behind Ulster's high achievers in this area Robbie Diack and Craig Gilroy.

Yes, it had been a very productive shift for Cave and one which had even seen him walk off with the man-of-the-match award. The 27-year-old had indeed looked sharp - an early loss of possession in a tackle made by opposite number Regan King can be forgiven - and had also managed to stay on the park while his inside centres succumbed to knocks with first Stuart Olding and then his replacement Stuart McCloskey both having to leave the field with injury issues which could yet rule them out of next week's return fixture.

If Cave was feeling good about himself, then he contained any of it for public consumption and instead played it safe when assessing the overall performance. And when only leading 14-9 after 55 minutes played, the Ulster centre knew only too well just how vital it was for the home side to react in a positive manner.

"Getting that next score and not allowing them get to 12 or get a score from there is something that was very good for us and enabled us kick on and get that bonus point," stated Cave and Ulster certainly did respond by racking up 10 unanswered points.

As for his opening try, he admitted that he just had to run in for the touchdown after all the hard work had been done elsewhere.

"It was a play we'd worked on during the week and we got Tommy (Bowe) around the edge and it was a great ball back inside and I just had to trot it in," he stated.

"We're happy with that and scoring first phase off that scrum. That's a play we've been fine tuning for a couple of weeks now and we nailed it and then scoring off that maul again (the bonus point try in the second half) and it's (first phase ball) such an important part of the game.

"I said before we're a very rounded team and that showed," added Cave.

Only when asked about Ruan Pienaar's score, Ulster's second and one which was created by the Ireland international after he broke free, did Cave stray towards some humour.

"Every time we ran a play during the week he was always telling me that he was on my inside, so there he was," Cave said of the South African's support line for the 18th minute score.

"It's good to have him back as obviously he's a quality player," he added of Pienaar's first game for Ulster this season "and Dan Tuohy as well and with Franco (Van der Merwe) going off, Dan took over control of the lineout and did a good job and he dug in deep for us there."

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And talking of big performances, Cave heaped praise on Ulster's bench and how they helped close things out and keep the Scarlets at bay as they came strong in the closing minutes with Pienaar in the bin for a deliberate knock-on.

"I think our performance in the last 10 or 15 minutes wasn't perfect but to keep a side like that out, I thought we scrambled really well and to bring on a new nine (Paul Marshall) and take our scrum down to seven (Robbie Diack having to go off) and win that penalty on our own line, and win another off the maul, I think showed the impact of a few of those forwards so credit to our bench."

Meanwhile, Ulster Ravens fell to a fifth straight defeat in the British and Irish Cup as they lost 27-19 against Yorkshire Carnegie at Huddersfield YMCA yesterday. Tries from Jack Owens, Jacob Stockdale and Dave Ryan had put the Ravens 19-8 up but they still managed to lose their way.

Their miserable B&I Cup season ends on Saturday when they host Aberavon at Deramore.

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