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Ulster didn't react well to Scarlets pressure, concedes Gibbes

Scarlets 34-10 Ulster

Got Stu: Ulster try scorer Stuart McCloskey is tackled by Scarlets’ Ryan Elias
Got Stu: Ulster try scorer Stuart McCloskey is tackled by Scarlets’ Ryan Elias

By Michael Sadlier

This season of steady descent shows no signs of losing momentum and, on Saturday evening, there could be no disguising yet another sub-standard performance as Ulster were brutally dispatched in a second half implosion of epic proportions in Wales.

The Scarlets racked up 31 points after half-time to claim a bonus point win while Ulster managed a meagre three and this after the visitors had actually headed into the changing rooms leading 7-3.

What was even more disturbing was that the hammering was delivered by a shadow Scarlets side, thanks to the reigning league champions largely supplying their national team, coming off the back of two defeats during the Six Nations window.

Indeed there had been some belief that Jono Gibbes's side could potentially triumph and make up some vital ground in Conference B on both second-placed Scarlets and, more importantly, Edinburgh in third.

Instead, Ulster put it up to the Welsh for that first half before being overwhelmed by more away day horrors - of 10 trips in all competitions, the province have won a mere three.

So, back-to-back defeats now for Ulster who fell away at the Scarlets in a manner that would suggest that this side may have little more to give.

Gibbes cut a pretty downbeat figure after watching his side cough up four tries in 37 minutes with Ulster's bench having no positive impact at all on the game's narrative.

"It was 7-3 at half-time and we'd had a try disallowed," Gibbes said though he admitted that Nick Timoney's ruled-out effort wasn't a factor in the tide turning.

"We felt like we knew what needed to be done and we talked about the things that were going to make a difference in the second half.

"We were going to try and put them under pressure," the Kiwi added.

"I thought the Scarlets were fantastic in the second half and they were certainly clinical when they put us under pressure and we didn't react to that pressure well at all."

After being gifted Stuart McCloskey's second minute try, Dan Jones's cross-kick being easily cut out by Tommy Bowe, Ulster played with some confidence and direction.

Even though Timoney's 29th minute score looked harshly ruled out after he put the hard-working McCloskey through a gap and got on the end of the centre's pass - Bowe had made contact with Jonathan Evans's leg, apparently obstructing him, and that proved enough to have the try scrubbed - there was positive work being done.

But there had been errors and these only grew from the start of the second half.

Winger Ioan Davies got over first with Jones superbly converting and though Cooney tied things up with a 50th minute penalty, the Scarlets already scented blood.

Debutant winger Ryan Conbeer then scythed past Chris Henry, McPhillips and Louis Ludik for a magical solo try out of nowhere to extinguish Ulster's challenge.

Four minutes after the hour Jones created for centre Paul Asquith with a delightful chip over the top and then even though the Scarlets had Nicholas over for his second from the restart - it was ruled out for a knock-on - and Peter Nelson then denied Asquith his second, it was inevitable that the fourth try would come.

It did with four minutes left when a rapidly retreating Ulster scrum forced Timoney to pick up only to receive Beirne's wrap up tackle and rip allowing the Munster-bound player to score.

SCARLETS: T Williams, C Baldwin, P Asquith, S Hughes (capt), I Nicholas, D Jones, J Evans; D Evans, R Elias, W Kruger, S Cummins, D Bulbring, T Beirne, J Davies, J Macleod

Subs: P Price for D Evans 48mins, R Conbeer for Baldwin 50mins, W Boyde for Davies 55mins, L Rawlins for Cummins 58mins, S Gardiner for Kruger 67mins, Phillips for Elias 72mins, Smith for J Evans 73mins, Hughes for Jones 76mins

Ulster: L Ludik 5/10, A Trimble 5/10, L Marshall 4/10, S McCloskey 6/10, T Bowe 5/10, J McPhillips 5/10, J Cooney 6/10; A Warwick 5/10, J Andrew 5/10, W Herbst 5/10, A O'Connor (Capt) 5/10, K Treadwell 4/10, M Rea 4/10, N Timoney 6/10, J Deysel 5/10.

Subs: C Henry for Deysel 45mins, 4/10, R Herring for Andrew 5/10 and K McCall for Warwick 4/10 both 51mins, R Ah You for Herbst 2/10 61mins, P Nelson for Trimble 64mins 5/10, M Dalton for Rea 4/10 and D Cave for L Marshall 4/10 both 66 mins, P Marshall for Cooney 72mins 4/10

Referee: I Davies (WRU)

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