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Half-Backs McPhillips And Cairns Guide Ulster ‘A’ To Opening B&I Cup Win
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Half-Backs McPhillips And Cairns Guide Ulster ‘A’ To Opening B&I Cup Win

Half-Backs McPhillips And Cairns Guide Ulster ‘A’ To Opening B&I Cup Win

Half-backs Aaron Cairns and Johnny McPhillips scored a combined 14 points as Ulster ‘A’ claimed a deserved victory over the Scarlets Premiership Select in the opening round of the British & Irish Cup at Banbridge RFC.

The Ulstermen started the game with some good early possession but it was the visitors who struck first with a well-taken try by winger Tom Prydie via a 10th-minute break. Two minutes later the Scarlets added another try, this time it was the impressive number 8 Jack Condy who benefited from a lineout maul inside the Ulster 'A' 22.

Having skewed his two previous conversion attempts, Scarlets out-half Rhys Jones fired his side into a 13-0 lead on 20 minutes with a 30-metre penalty from in front of the posts.

That score seemed to spark Ulster 'A' into life and just two minutes later, following smart offloads by forwards Joe Dunleavy and Ross Kane, lively scrum half and man-of-the-match Aaron Cairns rounded the last defender to touch down.

Within four minutes, the province crossed the whitewash again when Letterkenny teenager Dunleavy, who impressed from number 8, burrowed over from close range. Johnny McPhillips converted both tries to put Ulster 'A' into a lead that they would not relinquish.

Six minutes before the break, the former Ireland Under-20 out-half fired over a penalty from the 10-metre line to make it 17-13 for half-time. McPhillips landed four of his five shots at goal over the course of the afternoon.

There was very little in the way of scoring chances in the third quarter, with Scarlets replacement Jack Maynard missing a penalty opportunity on 57 minutes. Ulster 'A' full-back Jack Owens got the crucial score of the game five minutes later, brilliantly bursting through the Scarlets rearguard to touch down near the posts, the extras from McPhillips' right boot making it 24-13.

However, the home side were unable to push on for a four-try bonus point. Indeed, as the clock ticked towards 80 minutes, the Scarlets piled on the pressure in search of a losing bonus point and their endeavour was rewarded when lock Josh Helps got over in the right corner.

Ulster 'A' sit second in the Pool 5 table ahead of next Sunday's trip to Cornish Pirates, who opened with a 35-19 bonus point success at Hartpury. The Cornish side have struggled for results in the English Championship, losing four of their first six matches. 

Giving his reaction after his charges' winning start at Rifle Park, Kieran Campbell, Head of the Ulster Rugby Academy, told the Belfast Telegraph: “First game, first win and in any tournament pool you need to get off to a good start. And we won with a nice mixture of senior and younger players who blended very well.

“We put in a solid performance. We did let them in for easy scores early on, but we got ourselves back (on track) and then pushed on to complete the job. The Cornish Pirates present a different type of challenge, they are much more physical and combative. But we're confident and if we play with that resolve and energy again, then we've got a pretty exciting time ahead.”

Referee: Karl Dickson (England)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Jack Owens; David Busby, Callum Patterson, Rory Butler, Angus Kernohan; Johnny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns; Andrew Warwick, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane (capt), Jack Regan, Peter Browne, Caleb Montgomery, Aaron Hall, Joe Dunleavy.

Replacements used: Brett Herron for Owens (36 mins), Matthew Dalton for Browne (51), Michael Cromie for Kane, Greg Jones for Dunleavy (both 75). Not used: Zack McCall, Jonny Stewart, Michael Lowry.

Away Team

Morgan Williams; Tom Prydie, Ioan Nicholas, Steff Hughes (capt), Ryan Conbeer; Rhys Jones, Declan Smith; Rhys Fawcett, Evan Yardley, Javan Sebastian, Josh Helps, Jack Jones, Stuart Worrall, Shaun Evans, Jack Condy.

Replacements used: Jack Maynard for R Jones (59 mins), Dan Davis for Worrall (63), Billy McBryde for Conbeer, Steff Thomas for Sebastian (both 79), Matthew Moore for Yardley (80). Not used: Lewis Ellis-Jones, Alex Schwarz.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Aaron Cairns, Joe Dunleavy, Jack Owens; Cons: Johnny McPhillips 3; Pens: Johnny McPhillips

Away Team

Tries: Tom Prydie, Jack Condy, Josh Helps; Pen: Rhys Jones