Ulster give Cardiff the Blues
February 25, 2011
Ulster fly-half Ian Humphreys kicked three conversions and two penalties in Belfast
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Ulster kept their push for a top-four finish in the Magners League on track on Friday night with a pulsating 32-13 bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill which ended the visitors' four-game winning run.
First-half tries from Craig Gilroy and Ruan Pienaar set Ulster on their way with further scores coming from Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall, along with 12 points from the boot of Ian Humphreys, seeing the Blues off comfortably.
Ulster came tearing out of the blocks and Nevin Spence made it over the Blues line in the opening minute only for referee James Jones to call play back for an infringement. But they got their opening score from a rather unlikely passage of play.
Humphreys had just missed a long-range penalty from 52 metres when the Blues restarted and gave the ball back to the Ulster out-half. He collected, ran towards the Cardiff cover and chipped over it, re-gathering the ball on the bounce and drawing the remaining tacklers before offloading to Gilroy, who ran in under the posts to give Humphreys the easy conversion.
Three minutes later, Humphreys had another long-range penalty from more or less exactly the same spot. This time he nailed it and Ulster led 10-0. But the Blues immediately hit back and worked the ball right, Ceri Sweeney playing a one-two with Dan Fish for the fullback to plant the ball under the sticks. Sweeney added the conversion and the Blues were back in the game.
Five minutes before the half hour, though, Ulster kicked a penalty to touch and, from the resulting lineout, Spence smashed through and set up a series of phases which saw Pienaar dart over from close range. Humphreys' conversion gave Ulster a clear 10 point lead.
The visitors narrowed that just after the half hour when Tim Barker was penalised at a ruck and Sweeney did the necessary as the half ended with Ulster leading 17-10.
Ulster should probably have extended their lead six minutes into the second period after Cardiff were penalised at a scrum but Humphreys pushed the kick wide. He made up for it, though, after 50 minutes when another great surge from Ulster saw Humphreys' pass creating the chance for Trimble to power past Tom James and make the right corner, the television match official giving the score. Humphreys was wide with the difficult conversion but Ulster now led 22-10.
Sweeney got the Blues back to within nine points with a 56th-minute penalty after Declan Fitzpatrick was penalised at a scrum, but Ulster extended their lead again with a Humphreys penalty on the hour mark.
Ulster then dug deep to survive when Paddy McCallister was harshly binned for apparently not rolling away from a tackle on Rhys Downes and the Blues were unable to make any headway on the scoreboard. Marshall then added a fourth try under the posts after another sweeping Ulster move, with Humphreys converting.
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