The performance of young full-back David McIlwaine was one of the positives as Ulster went down 24-0 to Harlequins in Saturday’s pre-season clash at the Stoop.
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY MATCH: Saturday, August 21
HARLEQUINS 24 ULSTER 0, the Stoop
Scorers: Harlequins: Tries: Danny Care, Ugo Monye, Joe Marler; Cons: Nick Evans 3; Pen: Nick Evans
Given the experimental nature of the Ulster selection, which included a number of Academy players, and the strength in depth of the ‘Quins line-up, the Ulster management can still be pleased with the overall display.
Ulster’s scramble defence and scrum were among the best facets of their play, with Darren Cave, Andi Kyriacou and stand-in captain Johann Muller leading by example.
Young guns David McIlwaine, Nevin Spence and Craig Gilroy got precious little ball in hand, but physically they did not take a backward step, and Ireland underage international Luke Marshall also impressed off the bench.
Playing in red jerseys, white shorts and red socks, Brian McLaughlin’s men defended stoutly before a quick tap penalty caught them off guard and ‘Quins scrum half Danny Care grabbed the opening try from close range.
His half-back partner Nick Evans converted and added a penalty before home centre Jordan Turner-Hall had a try ruled out for a forward pass.
Ulster were starved of territory and their concerted efforts in defence were let down by a lapse, late in the first half. They allowed England and Lions winger Ugo Monye enough space and time to notch ‘Quins’ second try and set up a 17-0 half-time lead.
The second half was a stop-start affair, with a flurry of replacements disrupting any flow. Ulster never got their attack going and some handling errors and poor kicking out of hand let stunted their progress.
A third converted try arrived from replacement Joe Marler to seal the result, but as assistant coach Neil Doak admitted afterwards, Ulster will be all the better for the run-out as they prepare for next month’s Magners League opener against the Ospreys.
“We are disappointed with the result. We just couldn’t keep the ball and were forced to defend constantly,” said Doak.
“The boys worked hard defensively and stuck at it but we just weren’t able to sustain any territory.
“Defending for long periods of time is very draining and it certainly took its toll on the boys’ legs – we just weren’t really able to put Harlequins under any sustainable pressure and found it hard to keep hold of the ball when we got it.”
Ulster travelled to London with a relatively young side, particularly amongst the backs. Doak was impressed with some of their performances.
“It will have been a tough introduction for the young guys but they acquitted themselves well. David McIlwaine had a really good game at full-back and Craig Gilroy got a couple of good runs.”
Ulster will be back in action when Leeds Carnegie visit Ravenhill next Thursday night (kick-off 7.30pm), with McLaughlin’s charges hoping to gain some winning momentum for the season proper.
HARLEQUINS: Mike Brown; Tom Williams, George Lowe, Jordan Turner-Hall, Ugo Monye; Nick Evans, Darry Care; Ceri Jones, Chris Brooker, James Johnston, Ollie Kohn, Tomas Vallejos, Chris Robshaw (capt), Will Skinner, Nick Easter.
Replacements: Matt Cairns, Joe Marler, Mark Lambert, Lewis Stevsonson, Tom Guest, Karl Dickson, Rory Clegg, Ollie Smith, Tom Casson, Pete Browne, Benjamin Urdapilleta.
ULSTER: David McIlwaine; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence; Niall O’Connor, Ian Porter; Bryan Young, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Ryan Caldwell, Pedrie Wannenburg, Thomas Anderson, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paul Karayiannis, Adam Macklin, Tim Barker, Neil McComb, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Luke Marshall, Jonny Shiels, Mark McCrea.