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Rising Ulster stars are too smart for indisciplined Uruguay

Ulster 21 Uruguay 5

High hopes: Ulster’s Alex Thompson tries to outjump Diego Magno
High hopes: Ulster’s Alex Thompson tries to outjump Diego Magno
Ulster's Tom O'Toole
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

If Uruguay took up this fixture with a view to aiding their preparations for next year's World Cup, they will, at least, be well ready should they encounter a monsoon in Japan a year from now.

A few thousand hardy souls braved the wet weather to witness Ulster's 21-5 victory on a day where it felt the average annual rainfall of Montevideo had descended on Belfast by mid-afternoon.

The conditions, which were passed as playable by referee Robert O'Sullivan some two hours before kick-off, certainly had their effect on proceedings.

Ulster tailored their game accordingly with all three of their scores coming from maul tries at close quarters.

The visitors tried to maintain their attacking instincts but, as well as their poor discipline, were undermined by handling errors in the desperate conditions.

"We had our team run on Thursday and the plan was to run the ball," laughed Kieran Campbell who coached the youthful side.

"When you then turn up and it's pouring rain and 40-mile an hour winds, the boys were sort of saying 'well what are we going to do now?'

"That obviously went out the window a bit."

Captain Adam McBurney, who scored two of his side's three tries, was impressive, as was Tom O'Toole who bagged the man of the match honours.

"We spoke about it that the conditions might be bad but we probably weren't expecting them to be as bad as they were," said McBurney.

"We knew we had a set-piece though, so that gave us confidence. Our scrum, our lineout attack and our maul defence was all very good. We got purchase there and it got us points on the board while at the same time stopping them getting territory.

"They played really well. The try that they scored was fantastic but I thought we defended well and to concede only five points to a team that's going to be in the World Cup in 10, 11 months' time I thought was excellent from us. They did have us under pressure and some of their play was fantastic, so fair play to them, but I thought we controlled it pretty well."

With 12 minutes on the clock, Ulster's rolling maul was used to good effect with McBurney the beneficiary of his pack's good work.

Just as in their previous game on this tour against Cardiff, Uruguay's discipline was non-existent giving Ulster plenty of opportunities to repeat the trick and, indeed, their second score was almost a carbon copy of their first, McBurney again going over from a rumble off the lineout.

The skipper's night did take a turn, however, when he was shown a yellow card for killing the ball on the line after a fine break from Gaston Mieres, the wing who until recently has been plying his trade with Coventry.

While Ulster could certainly cite Uruguay's huge number of infringements when arguing against a card, the positioning of McBurney's infringement gave the referee little choice.

The visitors were growing into the game when half-time arrived, but sloppiness at line-out time would ensure they went into the break without a score.

Los Teros were still looking the more likely at the start of the second-half, even after losing impressive skipper Juan Manuel Gaminara to injury, with Mieres certainly the dangerman.

Discipline was still an all-too frequent Achilles heel with Ignacio Dotti eventually shown a yellow for his side's persistent infringing.

It was that penalty that put Ulster in position for their third try, and third off the maul, this time Marcus Rea doing well to finish after his initial thrust for the line was pushed back.

Uruguay, and Mieres, did at least get some deserved reward for their efforts late on, scoring a try after replacement hooker Ardao had done brilliantly to keep the ball alive.

It was confirmed yesterday that Ulster 'A', the same side who won last night in all but name, will play two games in Boston this season, one against Connacht 'A' and one against US Major League Rugby franchise the New England Free Jacks.

"We're defintely excited," added Campbell. "For all intents and purposes those boys have won five in a row now with the Celtic Cup too.

"It's another challenge. It's a chance to travel and see another rugby culture and get to know more about them."

Ulster: B Houston, I Hughes, S Moore, J Hume, A Kernohan; J McPhillips, J Stewart; S van der Merwe, A McBurney (capt), T O'Toole, M Rea, A Thompson, J Dunleavy, M Rea, G Jones

Replacements: Z McCall (for McBurney, 72) C Barrett (for O'Toole, 79), P Cooper (for Van der Merwe, 62), JJ McKee (for Thompson, 75), D McCann (for Dunleavy, 40), B McGaughey , G Curtis (for Stewart, 32), M Stronge (for Hughes, 73)

Uruguay: R Silva, L Leivas, JM Cat, A Vilaseca, G Mieres; F Berchesi, S Arata; M Sanguinetti, G Kessler, JP Rombys, I Dottie, D Magno, JM Gaminara (capt) JD Ormaechea, A Nietto Serra

Replacements: M Ardao (for Kessler, 2), E Beneitez (for Sanguinetti, 54), J Echeverriam (for Rombys, 60), M Leindekar (for Magno, 55), M Diana (for Ormaechea, 60), L Segredo (for Gaminara, 49), T Inciarte (for Arata, 63), A Corte (for Leivas, 55)

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