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Early Concessions Prove Costly For Ulster

Early Concessions Prove Costly For Ulster

Edinburgh inflicted most of the damage in the first half, putting Hugo Southwell and Jim Hamilton over for tries, as they kept up their Magners League title challenge at Murrayfield and brought Ulster back to earth after last week’s epic win over Munster.

Edinburgh’s fourth successive league win at Murrayfield looked on the cards in the first quarter when they helped themselves to two quick-fire tries.

They blazed into a 10-0 lead within six minutes of the kick-off, with two Phil Godman kicks sandwiching a try from full-back Hugo Southwell.

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Godman added his second penalty goal and lock Jim Hamilton burst through for a try, as Ulster were left training 18-9 at half-time.

Ian Humphreys’ fourth penalty success gave Ulster hope of mounting a serious comeback but six points was as close as they got as the game petered out in the closing 20 minutes and Godman and Paddy Wallace swapped final penalties.

After last weekend’s five-try defeat of Munster in Limerick, a buoyant Ulster ventured to the home of Scottish rugby determined to win successive away games in the same league season for the first time since April 2006.

It was also Matt Williams’ first trip back to Murrayfield since his time as Scotland coach and the prospect of achieving a ‘season’s double’ over Edinburgh must have seem particularly sweet.

But Edinburgh, who had Scottish Academy flanker Roddy Grant in their starting line-up, were keen themselves to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat at Glasgow.

Winger Andrew Turnbull, centre John Houston and lock Craig Hamilton were amongst the new introductions and the freshened-up side made their mark immediately, with Jim Hamilton securing Godman’s kick-off.

Edinburgh maintained possession and teed up Godman’s first successful penalty before a rapier-like thrust from Turnbull scattered the Ulster defence.

The wide man made a full 60 metres before he was stopped by two defenders, just as the supporting Houston threatened to take the ball on and score.

Andy Robinson’s men kept the pressure on and a neat release from Allister Hogg sent Southwell over for a try on the left. Godman’s conversion attempt nipped in off the right post.

Ulster welcomed back regular captain Rory Best and youngsters Mark McCrea and David Pollock into their team and opened their scoring account in the ninth minute when Humphhreys fired over a penalty.

However, Ulster were lacking the sharpness they showed against Munster and when McCrea misjudged a box kick from Mike Blair, Edinburgh took full advantage to score their second try.

Houston gobbled up possession and Grant was stopped just short of the try-line, before Jim Hamilton picked and drove over off the back of the ruck.

Godman, who had landed his second penalty four minutes earlier, was off-target with his attempted conversion and Humphreys reduced the arrears with successive penalties after 21 and 29 minutes.

After being pressed back into their own 22, Ulster enjoyed some attacking set-ups in Edinburgh territory but they came to nothing and the Scottish outfit, with captain Blair and the in-form Southwell standing out, looked more potent when in possession.

Craig Hamilton infringed at a ruck, nine minutes after the restart, to allow Humphreys cut the gap to 18-12 and Ulster were beginning to make use of any ball coming their way.

In a scrappy second period, the play from both sides became rather listless as the coaches looked to their benches to provide more go-forward ball.

The clearcut attacks were limited and after Godman had taken Edinburgh beyond the 20-point mark, it was left to Wallace to kick Ulster to a late, losing bonus point.

Edinburgh had spurned further try-scoring chances, while Ulster also had their moments – Wallace made a burst forward and had he been able to find the supporting Andrew Trimble, there was a try on for the visitors.

As it was, both sides lacked the necessary precision to cross the whitewash in a stop-start second half and Edinburgh, with club captain Simon Cross typifying their effort, had done enough in that opening spurt to warrant the victory.