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Winning start was key and the extra point a real bonus

By Michael Sadlier

So, that was reasonable enough wasn't it?

A bonus point win - secured late on by a Luke Marshall try - was a decent enough return in a game which was hardly electric in either execution or as a spectacle.

And there were areas of concern with Wiehahn Herbst not getting on the right side of the referee at the scrums, but even so, Ulster did what they needed to do and made off with the five points.

Yes, it all seemed to be heading for a ragged enough ending, but that break out and Marshall crashing over the line made up for some of the work that had gone before.

Ulster should - and will - get better as will Andrew Trimble and Nick Williams who both made their impressions on this encounter.

And how about man-of-the-match Stuart McCloskey?

A placekicker now as well as being a thunderbolt of a runner with ball in hand.

His impressive 13-point haul more than made up for having no frontline player off the tee, with Peter Nelson doing fine after being drafted in to play out-half.

The league is pretty low-visibility at the moment - what with a certain global tournament about to get going across the water - and most of the sides are having to make do without a raft of their frontline players.

Yes, with the World Cup nearing its kick-off this is a tricky old time for the clubs and their coaching teams.

At least Ulster have Andrew Trimble still around the place, rightly, no-one was prepared to say that this was a wholly good thing what with - yes, the World Cup again - the 30-year-old missing the final cut for Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad.

As Ulster coach Neil Doak has already pointed out, his team is well-versed in not having their star names around, and yet there is something more to it this year with the PRO12 largely soldiering along in what looks like being a fairly lonely furrow while the hype goes on over the soon to kick-off World Cup.

Then again, there are some things really don't change.

The need to start things off with an opening win is always imperative - and even more so when you begin the league campaign at home.

That has been a luxury not afforded to Ulster over the previous two seasons and it was even more important with only one more outing to come before breaking for the early part of the, you guessed it, World Cup.

And it somehow doesn't seem altogether fair on Doak - who will hand over fronting things to Les Kiss post-World Cup - that he had to begin matters with injury problems before such a thing as a competitive game came around.

Enter Nelson and his task of playing at out-half while Ian Humphreys and Sam Windsor are sidelined.

Still, Ulster manager to get round all that and those first-half tries from stand-in captain Rob Herring and McCloskey helped set things up.

As for the second half, yes, it was a bit ragged at times, but when it mattered Ulster got the points on the board.

Firstly through McCloskey's second penalty, which came not long after a trademark burst and then we had the sight of Herbst making up for his scrum misdemeanours to score.

All that remained after the benches had been emptied was for Ulster to come away with their bonus point.

And thankfully they did just that.

Belfast Telegraph


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