It was a case of a game of two halves, Ulster winning the first by 21 points while Edinburgh won the second but only by 15 to see the Celtic Cup end up in Ravenhill.
It was a case of a game of two halves, Ulster winning the first by 21 points while Edinburgh won the second but only by 15 to see the Celtic Cup end up and deservedly so, in the trophy cabinet in Ravenhill.
It was a victory that owed as much to Ulster’s steely determination and to the mastery of David Humphreys as it did to Edinburgh’s shocker of a first half performance. In that period, with the exception of Todd Blackadder and to a lesser degree, Simon Taylor, the home side were absolutely dreadful. They dominated territory and possession yet were 21 points down when Nigel Williams sounded the half-time whistle.
At times it looked as though it would have been easier to score a try rather than spurn the opportunity as they did more than once. Ulster for their part deserve credit for the their pressure defence, for the way they made the most of their opportunities and for the way they worked their way into position for David Humphreys to kick his points. And this he did superbly. Not only was his goal-kicking right on the money but his line-kicking and general play was also spot-on. He had annexed the Man of The Match award from early on. In addition Andy Ward was colossal throughout with Matt Mustchin, Matt Sexton and Roger Wilson ever willing to follow their leader.
In the opening half, Ulster were calmness personified in defence, aggressive in the tackle and had what Edinburgh patently lacked – a game plan.
A game of two halves it most certainly was. Every member of the Edinburgh squad will agree with every member of the Edinburgh supporter that this was a game the Gunners left behind them. All in all, it was a game Ulster deserved to win even though they were out-scored three tries to two. Until the final quarter their defence was unshakeable particularly out wide where the mid-field backs pushed up as a unit choking the life out of the Edinburgh threat. Not that that threat contained much in terms of ingenuity. And it was here that Edinburgh lacked a true number 10 such as an O’Gara, Townsend or Humphreys. Because on countless occasions when the situation called for a little grubber through or a chip behind the advancing line, Chris Paterson – he re-invented himself as an out-half in the World Cup – was totally incapable of delivering.
Time and again the Ulster backs raced forward in a line to deny Edinburgh even an inch of room to work and every time Paterson just shovelled the ball out – grist to the Ulster mill.
When it comes to talk about turning points it might sound churlish – after 35 points had been scored – to point to a moment in the 77th minute. At this stage Ulster had seen their lead reduced to a single converted try (21-14) and were penalised within kicking range of their posts. Paterson opted to go for touch but found touch in goal instead. Big Mistake.
Ulster galvanised themselves for another upfield sortie, forced the penalty and Humphreys nonchantly knocked over the kick.
Yes the Scots did come down for another try to set hearts aflutter but you could almost predict what would happen next.
Humphreys kicks for position.
Penalty to Ulster.
Where’s the kicking tee ?
Thank you, Thank You, Thank you very very much, Mister Humphreys..