Ulster 38 – 16 Edinburgh

A scrum move early in the game and an easy overlap put the less famous Visser in at the corner for Edinburgh after only a few minutes of this game at Ravenhill. Phil Godman was unable to convert, and although it was 5-0 to the visitors after 5 mins things were distinctly less easy for Edinburgh thereafter.

Ulster attempted to respond with a penalty but missed, but minutes later went over the line courtesy of some well timed passing and some fairly indifferent tackling from a muddled Edinburgh defence.

After dismantling Edinburgh at Murrayfield earlier in the season, Ulster were fully confident of the home victory and as early as the first 15 mins they were kicking to the corner rather than taking points.

Unfortunately for those of us who disdain the overtly gallus – at least when not on our side – the policy produced quick dividends as ageing pro Stefan Terblanche scored shortly afterward. The TMO was consulted but it was rarely in doubt as Ulster turned line-out pressure into quick wide ball and utilised their numbers.

Ulster tried again minutes later but Edinburgh’s defence held firm this time. Ulster, however, had the confidence and the physicality to keep trying, while Edinburgh struggled to make headway against the disruptive Irish pack.

Ulster scrum-half Marshall’s searing break down the blindside of a scrum was manfully defended by Phil Godman, and a missed knock on from Visser let Edinburgh out of jail for a while, but it wasn’t long before Ulster went over again after exhibiting plenty of patience until the moment was right. Paddy Wallace, Adam D’Arcy and the other Ulster backs were all keen to run it, if nothing else ensuring it would be Edinburgh’s type of game but in the end the extra physicality was to tell in the home side’s favour.

Thereafter Edinburgh made more obvious attempts to retain ball at the breakdown – the Ulstermen were competing viciously, and every ball had to be protected for fear it might be snaffled.

Possibly Edinburgh’s best chance came when the impressive Matt Scott collected a great chip and chase only for his support man to knock on. Having finally put some possession together and spurned one chance at goal, Phil Godman nabbed a penalty just before half time, to make the score 21-7.

Edinburgh had a good start to the second half, getting a penalty early on and making the gap look less daunting. You sensed if they could play in the right areas, they would get the penalties from refereen Owens and 40 minutes would be enough time to claw their way back into the game.

However an extended break for a clash of heads broke up Edinburgh’s momentum as Uslter replacement McComish was taken off. Edinburgh also forced to use their bench early with Ulises Gamboa only lasting a half and young McAlpine on for Gilchrist early in the second half. McInally had also gone off in the first half for Watson, so late in the game Edinburgh had fewer cavalrymen than Custer to call on.

Almost immediately following the resumption of play Ulster looked to punish the Edinburgh scrum and after a couple of stodgy efforts from the visitors, Nigel Owens went under the posts giving the home side their bonus point and sending the Ulster crowd into full singing voice.

Despite the result being certain at this point the pace of the game did not let up with both sides looking for gaps wide and narrow. Scott broke down the line stepping and dummying but as has often been the case, lack of support or a perceived need to chase the game forced the offload or a sloppy pass to no-one and the ball was knocked on.Visser is often a bit guilty of this, and his even younger cohorts occasionally follow suit.

Ulster are a very streetwise bunch of players, as befitting a team with all their experience, and over the course of the match they showed a little bit more accurate with passing and kicking.

It wasn’t all gloom though; Scott looked very assured going forward, Tom Brown defended well and made a few Hogg-style dashes while sub Hamish Watson was making line breaks almost whenever he got the ball.

By the time Tim Visser got on the score sheet, Edinburgh showed how easy it can be if they are patient with the Dutchman dotting down in the corner nonchalantly despite defenders surrounding him.

By then though the lead had indeed got too far out of sight, and it was to be too little too late. They can still score tries, but Edinburgh’s hunt for some genuine league form continues.

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