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Why Cooney will give off to me about Edinburgh try, explains Craig Gilroy

Ulster 30-29 Edinburgh

By Jonathan Bradley

For both Ulster and Craig Gilroy against Edinburgh on Friday, patience would indeed prove to be a virtue.

A night he broke a tie with Andrew Trimble to become the province's record try scorer in the competition, and eventually pick up man-of-the-match honours, had something of an inauspicious beginning.

For all the late dramatics - Dan McFarland's men triumphed despite trailing by 17 points and needed a second game-winning penalty from John Cooney in as many weeks - the visitors had looked to be on their way to something of a routine victory.

Ulster's three-try blitz in 15 second half minutes turned the game on its head though, culminating in Gilroy's memorable scamper home from deep inside his own half.

"I wasn't getting much ball in the first half," he admitted afterwards. "But I always said to myself 'if it will come, it will come and if it doesn't I'll go get it.'

"I sort of saw it unfolding and I saw how narrow Edinburgh were. Henry (Speight) just likes to run and keep the ball alive, he off-loaded and Cooney, workhorse as ever, was beside him. I just knew I was in a good bit of space.

"I knew Cooney was going to hit me and he makes the right decision and he gave me a lovely pass and I hardly broke stride and I just backed myself on the way in.

"I didn't hear him or see Cooney on the inside of me and he'll probably give off to me about that on review. As if he hasn't done enough to win the game, he'd want two tries as well.

"I was watching it back on replay and it was actually him that got me a couple of seconds just with that defender coming across so it was nice to dot down.

"I tried to get under the posts but I didn't want to push my luck."

It was the second time in 2018 the side have erased a 17-point deficit, the previous occasion being the visit of Munster back in January, but Gilroy revealed that, despite how it may have looked on Premier Sports cameras, there was no loss of temper from the coaching staff at half-time.

"Dan was very cool, he kept himself collected and there was no hair-dryer treatment which is probably what he wants me to say.

"We just got into our units and talked about a few things, in the first half we had broken them down the edge a couple of times and that was working well for us.

"We were getting round them a couple of times but we just needed to look after the ball.

"He spoke to the forwards and told them to lift it up a few gears.

"This is our home patch, this is our fortress and we don't want that (defeat) to happen anywhere let alone here so we came out and put in a good shift in the second half.

"There was nothing crazy, just a bit more work from our backs and forwards. We wanted to get a back in position who could take it out the back and we didn't really offer that much in the first half but we did in the second half.

"Eventually we broke them down and we were getting some edges and some off-loads."

In a league where nine of the first 14 games have finished within a score, Ulster have proven to be masters of dramatic finale having required a 79th minute penalty to beat Scarlets in round one, and left things even later on Friday night after Edinburgh had retaken the lead following Gilroy's score.

While the bottom line remains that only they and Benetton can boast a pair of wins in Conference B, and they have beaten two of the sides who finished above them last season, Gilroy acknowledges they could do without putting their fans through the ringer.

"Won two from two though we left it pretty late obviously," he said. "The first win was a good start for us and we wanted to back that up. It wasn't ideal leaving it that tight, we can't rely on that, but look at the positives, it was a tough Edinburgh team and we came out with a win which was the most important thing.

Going back to last week we were down but there was never really that feeling of 'we're going to lose this'.

"It's that belief that Dan and the staff have brought to fight for every inch and to really work for each other.

"Once you're too far behind those games can trail away from you and be a disaster so credit to the boys and the squad and the coaches.

"Scarlets are an unbelievable side getting to the final two years in a row and Edinburgh under (Richard) Cockerill are a different team. They got one over on us last season so it was a bit personal to get one back on them. As you saw, we had our work cut out for us."

Next up is a mini-tour to South Africa, with Ulster facing the Kings on Sunday, the league's worst side who they made quite the effort of beating last year, and then Cheetahs the following week.

"Hopefully it's nothing like last season though," Gilroy laughed.

"That was a fantastic trip with team-bonding but the game was a bit up and down. We're prepared for that this season and we've got the two games now so we can prep for that with a nine-day turnaround.

"So we can recover well and enjoy the trip and be ready for the games and hopefully come back with four from four in the league."

Ulster: C Piutau, T Bowe, D Cave, McCloskey, J Stockdale, P Nelson, P Marshall, K McCall, R Herring, R Ah You, R Diack, A O'Connor, C Ross, C Henry (captain), N Timoney.

Replacements: J Andrew (for Herring, 49), A Warwick (for McCall, 40), W Herbst, I Henderson (for O'Connor, 57), M Rea (for Ross, 53), D Shanahan (for P Marshall, 54), B Herron (for Cave, 52), R Lyttle (for Piutau, 49).

EDINBURGH: C Meyer

Replacements: R Buck

Referee: Dan Jones (WAL)

Man of the Match: N Timoney (Ulster)

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