PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 19
Ulster 9 London Irish 17, Ravenhill
Scorers: Ulster: Pens: Paul Steinmetz 3
London Irish: Tries: Topsy Ojo 2, James Storey; Con: Ross Laidlaw
Australian international Justin Harrison made an impressive bow for Ulster on Friday night, but failed to prevent the province from going down 17-9 to London Irish in their Ravenhill friendly.
Ulster coach Mark McCall also handed Ireland Under-21 centre Andrew Trimble his first senior cap but even though the Ballymena clubman's midfielder partner Paul Steinmetz landed three penalties, it was not enough to hang onto the coat tails of 'Irish.
The visitors mustered three second half tries, having went in at the interval, in front of 6,300 Belfast spectators, with a 6-0 deficit. By that stage, the 30-year-old lock Harrison was showing his undoubted physical presence, and provided an interesting duel with the Ireland-capped Bob Casey at lineout time.
Trimble's attacking qualities were rarely seen unfortunately, as the Exiles fronted up in defence. He did nip in for a late charge at the line, but the youngster, in his second year with the province, was denied.
Ireland wing Tommy Bowe also went close to scoring an Ulster try on 49 minutes, following a well-executed break by fly-half Paddy Wallace, who was deputising at number 10 for the injured David Humphreys (calf strain).
Having come back from long-term injuries, Neil McMillan, Jonny Bell and James Topping were all unloaded off the bench by McCall in the closing stages, but neither one could make any impact on the scoreline.
Ulster will have another chance to impress their home crowd when they face Rotherham Titans, the club now led by former Belfast Harlequins coach Andre Bester, next Friday at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.30pm).
Afterwards their loss to the Exiles, coach Mark McCall singled out youngster Trimble for special praise.
"Like always in friendlies, there were a number of very strong positives and aspects we are going to have to work bloody hard on," admitted the former Ireland centre.
"Organisationally we know we are little behind where will want to be at the start of the season but in terms of conditioning, I thought in the first half we were energetic, vibrant and aggressive.
"I thought Andrew did really well in his first cap for Ulster against difficult opposition."
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; James Topping, Andrew Trimble, Paul Steinmetz, Tyrone Howe; Paddy Wallace, Kieron Campbell; Bryan Young, Paul Shields, Simon Best (Capt), Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough, Campbell Feather, Neil Best, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Tommy Bowe, Jonny Bell, Adam Larkin, Reece Spee, Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Henry Head, Rowan Frost, Neil McMillan.
LONDON IRISH: Delon Armitage; Dominic Feau'nati, Scott Staniforth, Mike Catt (Capt), Justin Bishop; Barry Everitt, Ben Willis; Michael Collins, Adrian Flavin, Richard Skuse, Bob Casey, Kieran Roche, Paul Gustard, Declan Danaher, Phil Murphy.
Replacements: Neal Hatley, Robbie Russell, Rob Hardwick, Gary Johnson, Kieron Dawson, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Paul Hodgson, Ross Laidlaw, Shane Geraghty, James Storey.
Referee: Colin Stanley (IRFU)