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Ulster Top Of The Pile

Ulster Top Of The Pile

The second biggest Celtic League crowd of the season watched Ulster end Edinburgh’s unbeaten run on Friday night at Ravenhill. The 30-23 result sent Mark McCall’s side top of the table.

Try-scorer Andrew Trimble tries to race around Chris Paterson

The second biggest Celtic League crowd of the season watched Ulster end Edinburgh’s unbeaten run on Friday night at Ravenhill. The 30-23 result sent Mark McCall’s side top of the table.

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CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, September 16

Ulster 30 Edinburgh Gunners 23, Ravenhill (Att: 7,799)

Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble; Con: David Humphreys; Pens: Humphreys 6

Edinburgh: Tries: Rob Dewey, Francisco Leonelli; Cons: Chris Paterson 2; Pens: Paterson 2; Drop: Paterson

Ulster’s first competitve home game of the season was an end-to-end affair which saw the lead change hands several times in the second half. Once more, Ireland’s record points scorer David Humphreys played a central role as his 20-point haul – six penalties and a conversion – allowed McCall’s side much leeway against what was a stubborn Gunners outfit.

Edinburgh’s pack set about dominating proceedings on the opening quarter and two crisp kicks from captain Chris Paterson – a second-minute drop goal and a penalty ten minutes later – soon had the Scots on top.

Ulster though hit back though on 20 minutes when Kieran Campbell broke out from his 22 and cut his way through Gunners’ ranks. The resultant penalty was slotted by Humphreys, making up for his miss in the sixth minute when his first attempt rebounded off an upright.

This spurred Ulster into life but, just before the half hour, quick thinking from Mike Blair saw Edinburgh run a penalty out of their own 22.

Simon Webster made ground and the ball was spun right with full-back Francisco Leonelli hacking on to score his second try in seven days. Paterson converted and the visitors were 13-3 up. An injury-time Humphreys penalty narrowed the margin to 13-6 at the interval.

Five minutes after the restart, it was Ulster whose quick reactions were dramatically rewarded. Ireland winger Tommy Bowe intercepted a pass just outside his 22 and ran the length of the field to score a brilliantly-executed try. Humphreys’ conversion then drew the sides level and it was well and truly game-on for the near-8,000 Belfast crowd.

Paterson’s second penalty put the Gunners back in front, two minutes later but Ulster roared back again – this time with their second try. Ireland Under-21 centre Andrew Trimble, who was lining out on the left wing, was put over on an inviting flat pass from Humphreys on 50 minutes.

The Ballymena youngster’s score went unconverted but Humphreys made amends five minutes later with his third penalty to give Ulster a 21-16 lead.

Edinburgh never lay down and doggedly fought back into the lead. Centre Rob Dewey touched down on 59 minutes for Paterson to convert the Scots into a 23-21 lead. Fortunately for Ulster that was Edinburgh’s scoring done.

Humphreys’ fourth penalty strike saw Ulster hit the front again three minutes later, and two further successes from the 34-year-old fly-half on 70 and 81 minutes saw Ulster push on for what could prove to be a vital victory in the scheme of things.

Next Saturday, Ulster visit the Dragons at Rodney Parade, a venue at which they were unfortunate to lose 13-11 last February. A late penalty from South African international Percy Montgomery rescued the spoils for the Welsh side.

ULSTER: Paddy Wallace; Tommy Bowe, Kevin Maggs, Paul Steinmetz, Andrew Trimble (James Topping 60-63); David Humphreys, Kieran Campbell; Justin Fitzpatrick (Bryan Young 63), Paul Shields, Simon Best (Capt), Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough, Neil Best, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.

EDINBURGH: Franciso Leonelli (Hugo Southwell half-time); Chris Paterson (Capt), Marcus Di Rollo, Rob Dewey, Simon Webster; Duncan Hodge (Phil Godman 64), Mike Blair; Dave Hewett (Allan Jacobsen 49), Dougie Hall, Craig Smith (Hewett 75), Alastair Kellock, Scott Murray (Fergus Pringle 77), Matt Mustchin, Simon Cross (Alasdair Strokosch 37), Allister Hogg.

Referee: Phil Fear (Wales)