Ulster make it three in a row
March 4, 2011
Aironi's James Marshall is tackled by Ulster's Tom Court and Paddy Wallace
© Getty Images
Ulster kept their Magners League play-off hopes alive with a 23-10 victory over Aironi at Ravenhill.
Tries from Tom Court, Craig Gilroy and Declan Fitzpatrick propelled the Irish region to their third win in a row but they were made to fight hard by a spirited Aironi effort which managed to deny the hosts a bonus point. The result could have been a lot closer had Aironi been more precise with their finishing after a number of chances were blown by the Italians, who tumbled to their 16th defeat in as many outings in the competition.
Ulster, with Ruan Pienaar at outside half for the injured Ian Humphreys, made several errors after initially streaking to an early 15-0 lead. Tries from Court and Gilroy inside seven minutes helped them to a 15-10 half-time lead before a score from replacement Fitzpatrick plus two Pienaar penalties in a second half which skipper Johann Mueller was yellow carded.
With only three minutes on the clock Court drove over the line after Ulster had kicked to the corner from a penalty. Pienaar's conversion hit the upright but he made sure with his second attempt which came four minutes later after Ulster had moved the ball at pace for Chris Henry to send Gilroy over for a seventh try in seven appearances.
Pienaar then added a penalty to put Ulster 15 points clear just before the quarter-hour mark. It looked as if an avalanche of points was about to be unleashed on the visitors but Ulster began to allow errors and lack of precision crept into their game.
After half an hour Riccardo Bocchino kicked a penalty after Court was penalised for not rolling away. Then Pienaar saw a reasonably straightforward penalty attempt glance off the upright and bounce out which was symptomatic of how Ulster had gone off the boil. Aironi sensed their chance and after a great surge from Nick Williams the ball was moved blind and James Marshall scored under the posts.
Bocchino added the extras and suddenly the Italians were back in the game. Ulster, though, had a great chance to immediately strike back when scrum-half Pietro Travagli's pass missed Bocchino and ended up going dead over the Aironi try line.
From the five metre scrum, Pedrie Wannenburg picked up but went himself, ignoring Paul Marshall and Andrew Trimble outside him, but was swallowed up by the defence and then conceded the penalty which ended the half with Ulster leading by a mere five points. Losing the first lineout of the half was not exactly part of Ulster's plan and neither was gifting winger Danwel Demas with an intercept that, but for Pienaar's tap tackle, would have resulted in a second try for Aironi.
The Italians pushed on and a series of penalties resulting in lineouts on Ulster's line saw Mueller sin-binned for Ulster but still yielded no score for the hard-grafting Italian pack. Ulster responded by re-arranging their backline with Pienaar moving to scrum half in place of Marshall and Wallace slotting into out half while Simon Danielli came on and went to fullback.
It may not have had an immediate effect but at least Ulster survived Mueller's binning without conceding and even managed a Pienaar penalty, two minutes after the hour, to give Ulster an 18-10 lead with their first points since the 14th minute.
This seemed to have the desired effect and after a half break from Wallace, replacement Fitzpatrick was awarded the try after the TMO was consulted. Pienaar, though, missed the conversion and Ulster now led 23-10.
Aironi then dominated the remainder of the game and were held up on two occasions and also butchered a clear try scoring chance when replacement prop Tommaso D'Apice threw a forward pass to Kaine Roberston with the line at his mercy to deny Aironi a deserved bonus point.
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