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Ulster Move Into Second

Ulster Move Into Second

Having survived two late sin-binnings, Ulster leapfrogged Leinster into second in the Celtic League standings courtesy of Friday’s three-try defeat of Edinburgh.

…Stephen Ferris tries to get to grips with Edinburgh’s former Ulster forward Matt Mustchin…

Having survived two late sin-binnings, Ulster leapfrogged Leinster into second in the Celtic League standings courtesy of Friday’s three-try defeat of Edinburgh.

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CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, February 17

EDINBURGH GUNNERS 23 ULSTER 31, Murrayfield (Att: 3,559)

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Penalty try, Duncan Hodge; Cons: Hodge 2; Pens: Hodge 3

Ulster: Tries: Andrew Maxwell 2, Isaac Boss; Cons: David Humphreys 2; Pens: Humphreys 4

Mark McCall’s side now sit three points behind Munster with the prospect of a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash between the sides at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.35pm) on Friday, March 3.

On Friday night at Murrayfield, Ulster’s cause was again aided by Ireland Sevens player Andrew Maxwell, who scored a try in either half. Flying winger Maxwell, 24, has now scored six tries in his last three games, including a hat-trick against Treviso in the Heineken Cup last month.

The first incident of note saw Gunners full-back Francisco Leonelli felled by a head-high tackle close to halfway. The subsequent penalty allowed Edinburgh to pressurise the Ulster line but they failed to come away with any points.

To add to Edinburgh’s woes, Ulster proceeded to score from their first half-chance. Ireland fly half David Humphreys snaffled a loose ball on the Edinburgh 10-metre line and seconds later, left winger Maxwell was touching down. Humphreys converted and then increased Ulster’s lead with a simple penalty matched two minutes later, by a more difficult Duncan Hodge effort.

Simon Webster was then hauled down in the left-hand corner having been put away after Phil Godman blocked a Humphreys kick. The Edinburgh scrum was creaking, but number eight Dave Callam managed to work the ball away and Rory Lawson won a 31st-minute penalty stroked home by Hodge.

Following a marvellous break from Ulster centre Andrew Trimble, Callam turned sinner with a professional foul. Callam was sin-binned and Ulster, on 38 minutes, heaved the short-handed Edinburgh scrum over their line for scrum half Isaac Boss to score with Humphreys converting.

Edinburgh number 10 Hodge was presented with a chance to narrow the gap with a penalty but the kick went wide and Ulster turned around with a 17-6 lead.

Edinburgh made a lively start to the second half and a try seemed certain when former Ulster forward Matt Mustchin took a quick tap in the Ulster 22, but Webster dropped the ball just a metre from the line.

Worse followed when Ulster, after nine minutes of the half, at last got up field to be awarded a penalty, goaled by Humphreys. Hodge’s third penalty was immediately countered by Humphreys before Ulster prop and skipper Simon Best was sin-binned for stamping on Craig Smith on 66 minutes.

From the penalty, Edinburgh pressurised the Ulster line until awarded a penalty try converted by Hodge to cut the score to 23-16. Nonetheless, Ulster immediately countered with Maxwell’s second try on 73 minutes.

In a crazy climax, Maxwell then found himself in the sin bin, Humphreys kicked a penalty and Hodge closed proceedings with a try that he converted himself, but Ulster, who have now not lost to the Gunners in three-and-a-half years, were too far in front.

EDINBURGH: Francisco Leonelli Morey; Simon Webster (Nic De Luca 59), Phil Godman, Matt Dey (Peter Jorgensen 59), Mike Pyke; Duncan Hodge, Rory Lawson; Allan Jacobsen (Dickinson 64), Andrew Kelly (Dougie Hall 49), Alasdair Dickinson (Craig Smith 40), Alasdair Strokosch (Fergus Pringle 74), Dave Duley, Matt Mustchin, Simon Cross (Alan MacDonald 51), David Callam.

Replacement not used: Ander Monro.

ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; James Topping (Jonny Bell 52), Andrew Trimble, Paul Steinmetz, Andrew Maxwell; David Humphreys, Isaac Boss (Kieran Campbell 80+5); Bryan Young (Justin Fitzpatrick 76), Rory Best (Nigel Brady 80+5), Simon Best, Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough (Rowan Frost 80+3), Neil Best, Stephen Ferris (Neil McMillan 65), Roger Wilson.

Replacement not used: Adam Larkin.

Sin Bin: Callam (Edinburgh) (35 mins), S Best (Ulster) (66), Maxwell (Ulster) (77)
Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)