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Agony For Ulster As Edinburgh Edge Them

Agony For Ulster As Edinburgh Edge Them

A close-run Heineken Cup encounter at Murrayfield on Saturday saw Edinburgh once again edge out unlucky Ulster in the final quarter to emerge 17-13 victors and leave Brian McLaughlin’s men on five points with two games played.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin had resisted any temptation to tinker with the Ulster starting line-up, naming the same side that secured a 26-12 victory in last week’s Pool 4 opener against Bath.

Edinburgh, keen to make a mark in the group after a heavy defeat at Stade Français last weekend, saw their selection weakened – on paper at least – by the absence of their international full-back and kicking specialist Chris Paterson, an eleventh hour casualty replaced by Welshman Steve Jones.

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Paterson’s dead-ball understudy, Phil Godman, had an early chance to steady his nerves after Clinton Schifcofske was penalised on two minutes for holding on too long, and executed the kick with precision to nudge the Scots ahead.

The Rob Moffat-coached hosts continued to control play over the next 15 minutes, with Ulster soaking up pressure and in-form out-half Ian Humphreys clearing his lines several times over with judicious kicking.

However, the visitors were unable to get a hold of the ball to build any constructive possession, and, with 20 minutes on the clock, Godman added to his earlier score with another penalty.

Conceding for the second time served as a wake-up call for Ulster, and in particular Timoci Nagusa.

The Fijian winger showed his trademark pace from a standing start after picking up an innocuous-looking ball from the ruck on 24 minutes, outstripping the Edinburgh back-line to score his second try of the European campaign. Humphreys’ conversion put Ulster in the lead at 7-6.

The advantage was very nearly relinquished straight away when Ulster were penalised again. Godman was off target on this occasion, however, and as the match hit the half hour mark Ulster cemented their lead with a Humphreys penalty.

Ulster were in the ascendancy as the first half drew to a close, until a lengthy pause for treatment to Nagusa unfortunately broke up their momentum.

Edinburgh swiftly got back on the attack, and Ulster were penalised once more for infringing at the breakdown. Godman missed his target though, allowing Ulster to go into the break with a 10-6 buffer.

The second half opened with good driving from props BJ Botha and Tom Court which eventually forced an Edinburgh infringement. Humphreys’ successful penalty put Ulster ahead by the margin of a converted try on 45 minutes.

Five minutes later, the Ulster number 10 narrowly missed a penalty effort from 40 metres, and Edinburgh then began to show some real spirit, playing more expansively and putting the Ulster defence to the test.

Nick De Luca came within a hair’s breadth of scoring on 55 minutes, denied only by a fine last-ditch tackle by Darren Cave, followed by a steal from Nagusa.

Edinburgh continued to close Ulster down, and, with 20 minutes remaining, the game’s pattern was beginning to resemble that of the recent Magners League clash at Ravenhill between the two sides, in which Edinburgh turned the tables and stole victory in the last quarter.

The first points from the Scots’ onslaught eventually came on 67 minutes when Godman kicked over his third successful penalty from just outside the 22.

Edinburgh now had the Ulster scent in their nostrils, and their dominance was rewarded with ten minutes left when Tim Visser resisted Humphreys’ tackle to ground a try in the left corner.

Godman’s conversion attempt missed by some way, though, and kept Ulster within touching distance at 14-13.

Moffat’s then spent a good eight minutes camped metres away from the Ulster try-line, held at bay by determined Ulster scrummaging until the visitors were once again penalised for coming in from the side.

This time Godman’s kick was on target, and effectively snuffed out any hope of a last-gasp Ulster comeback. With only seconds remaining at the restart, Edinburgh swiftly regained possession and kicked into touch to call time on an ultimately frustrating afternoon for McLaughlin’s side, their only consolation being the losing bonus point.