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Ulster ‘A’ Battle For B&I Cup Win In Ballymena
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Ulster ‘A’ Battle For B&I Cup Win In Ballymena

Ulster ‘A’ Battle For B&I Cup Win In Ballymena

Ulster ‘A’ had to fight all the way for a hard-earned British & Irish Cup pool win over the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select at Eaton Park on Friday.

On a mild evening at the home of Ballymena Rugby Club, it was Ulster 'A' who opened the scoring via a Johnny McPhillips penalty on 10 minutes following a scrum infringement.

However, Cardiff hit back with a try from their first meaningful attack. Winger Kyle Evans cut through the Ulster 'A' defence off a scrum move in the 15th minute, with full back Gareth Thompson knocking over the conversion.

Four minutes later, the visitors were penalised for coming in from the side and Ireland Under-20 international McPhillips made no mistake from 42 metres out to close the gap to 7-6.

The talented place-kicker, playing at full-back, added another penalty following great work on the loose ball by industrious flanker Conor Joyce which set up a sweeping counter attack from the province.

The Blues were dealt a huge blow three minutes from the interval when scrum half Pele Cowley was sensationally shown a double yellow card for what seemed like an early tackle on his opposite number David Shanahan who had taken a quick tap, and then dissent. McPhillips pushed the resulting penalty wide, but Ulster 'A' went in 9-7 ahead at the break.

It took 12 minutes of play in the second half for a score to be registered when Cardiff were awarded a penalty for Stephen Mulholland not rolling away, and Thomspon obliged from 25 metres out to edge his side in front again – 10-9.

Towards the end of the third quarter, Ulster 'A' finally broke through for what was their only try of the game. A free-flowing move from left to right culminated in a fantastic skip pass by man-of-the-match Robert Lyttle to release Jack Owens who beat two defenders and reached out to touch down in the right corner.

McPhillips brilliantly added the extras to put Ulster six points in front. Cardiff had a great opportunity to hit back just two minutes later but on this occasion Thompson pulled his penalty attempt wide.

In the final 10 minutes, the Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson-coached hosts soaked some heavy pressure but managed to deny their opponents any gilt-edged opportunities and held on for a tight victory.

The result leaves Ulster on 10 points after three pool games, with Cardiff at the foot of the table on two points. The other fixture from Pool 1 takes place on Saturday afternoon as London Scottish host Jersey Reds. Next up for Ulster 'A' is the reverse fixture with Cardiff at Sardis Road next Saturday (December 17).

Referee: Veryan Boscawen (England)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Johnny McPhillips; Robert Lyttle, Rory Butler, Mark Best, Jack Owens; Brett Herron, David Shanahan; Callum Black, John Andrew (capt), Jonny Simpson, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Nick Timoney, Conor Joyce, Lorcan Dow.

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Tommy O'Hagan, John McCusker, Zack McCall, Jonny Stewart, David Busby, Callum Patterson.

Away Team

Gareth Thompson; Kyle Evans, Harri Millard, Garyn Smith, Teri Gee; Ben Jones, Pele Cowley; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis (capt), Hemi Barnes, Ben Murphy, Nick White, Morgan Sieniawski, Cam Dolan.

Replacements: Joe Tomlinson, Rhys Carre, Kieron Assirratti, James Botham, Dane Blacker, Cameron Lewis, Declan Williams.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Try: Jack Owens; Con: Johnny McPhillips; Pens: Johnny McPhillips 3

Away Team

Try: Kyle Evans; Con: Gareth Thompson; Pen: Gareth Thompson