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Sexton Try Secures First Cup Victory For Ulster ‘A’
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Sexton Try Secures First Cup Victory For Ulster ‘A’

Sexton Try Secures First Cup Victory For Ulster ‘A’

Ulster ‘A’ edged out Cardiff Blues ‘A’ at Cardiff Arms Park this afternoon to register their first win in the inaugural Celtic Cup development competition.

Played in difficult weather conditions, both sides struggled to build sustained periods of momentum, but it was Aaron Sexton's brilliant 19th-minute breakaway try from his own 22 which proved to be the decisive score of the game.

Both Michael Lowry and Ben Jones both missed penalty opportunities to open the scoring, but it was Cardiff Blues 'A' who were looking the most likely to score inside the first quarter. The Welshmen were looking to bounce back from a heavy 57-10 loss to Leinster 'A' at Energia Park.

A Sion Bennett break gave the Blues an attacking platform, with encouraging carries from the likes of Tom James, Tom Williams and Harri Millard putting Richie Rees' men within metres of the whitewash. However, Ulster 'A' pressure led to Bennett losing control of the ball.

Hooker Zack McCall was quick off the mark, lofting a pass over to Sexton just before he was challenged by Jones. The tall young winger set off on a superb run from deep, outpacing both Dan Fish and Ben Thomas while Tom Williams, the final defender coming across, was also unable to catch him.

Sexton's try out of nothing left the Blues trailing 7-0 with captain Lowry making no mistake with the conversion from the left of the posts. Sexton and Lowry had threatened before that, the out-half's early cross-field kick reaching Sexton but full-back Fish kept him out on that occasion.

Another handling error almost resulting in a second breakaway score for the visitors, as Joe Dunleavy looked to have a clear run for the line. This time Tom James had other ideas as he raced back to makes a crucial intervention.

The weather continued to disrupt efforts to play open attacking rugby, but Cardiff did get a score on the board early in the second half when Jones landed a penalty to cut the gap to four points. Ireland Sevens flyer Robert Baloucoune went close so after but his offload was just off target, with James mopping up for the Blues.

The Welsh region soaked up pressure for a sustained period of time – the jet-heeled Baloucoune was proving a handful and James had to make a vital tackle, while Lowry had Fish scrambling with a clever chip over the top – but a huge defensive shift saw Cardiff eventually win a penalty at the scrum.

They laid siege to the Ulster 'A' try-line in the closing stages and kicked a succession of penalties to the corner. Having opted for a scrum, Cardiff were unable to force a match-winning try as the Ulster 'A' youngsters hung on for a hard-fought win.

Referee: Elgan Williams (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Dan Fish; Tom Williams, Harri Millard, Ben Thomas, Tom James; Ben Jones, Dane Blacker; Fraser Young, Liam Belcher (capt), Keiron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Down, Sion Bennett, Cai Devine, Alun Lawrence.

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Garyn Phillips, Will Davies King, Luke Crocker, Ioan Rhys Davies, Lewis Jones, Max Llewellyn, Ioan Davies.

Away Team

Iwan Hughes; Robert Baloucoune, Jack Owens, James Hume, Aaron Sexton; Michael Lowry (capt), Michael Stronge; Tommy O'Hagan, Zack McCall, Rodney Ah You, Clive Ross, Bradley Luney, Marcus Rea, Aaron Hall, Joe Dunleavy.

Replacements: Peter Cromie, Peter Cooper, Paul McGookin, Matthew Dalton, David McCann, Graham Curtis, Matthew Agnew, Bruce Houston.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Pen: Ben Jones

Away Team

Try: Aaron Sexton; Con: Michael Lowry