Match Report: Ulster Rugby 20-21 Scarlets

Luke Marshall

Luke Marshall scored Ulster’s second try

Ulster missed the chance to go back to the top of the Guinness PRO12 and fell to their second home defeat of the season, losing 21-20 to play-off rivals the Scarlets.

A brace of tries from full-back Michael Collins and 11 points from the boot of Aled Thomas handed the Welsh side an unlikely four points that takes them above Ulster in the PRO12 table.

Ulster fought back through scores from Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall, but ultimately their inability to cross the try line more coupled with some slack defending cost them the defeat.

Ulster had more of the possession early on but the Scarlets were the first on the board after just four minutes when centre Hadleigh Parkes broke through a tackle and offloaded to full-back Collins who had the easy task of sauntering over the line.

There was some comic relief for the crowd as Scarlets prop Peter Edwards had to change his shorts in the middle of the pitch, however on the whole the home crowd were being frustrated for the second week running by Ulster’s shortcomings in attack.

Instead it was the visitors who were doing all the pressing and they furthered their lead in the 15th minute when fly-half Thomas put over his first penalty of the afternoon from right under the posts.

It was down to returning fly-half Paddy Jackson to finally give Ulster their first points of the afternoon when, with a penalty advantage, he slotted over a 17th minute drop goal from in front of the sticks.

And midway through the half they got the try that put them ahead as winger Craig Gilroy surged down the wing and regathered his own chip over the top to slide in for the hosts’ first try of the match.

But just three minutes later the Welsh side retook the lead through a second Collins try, with the full-back finishing off a prolonged attack that featured far too many missed tackles from an Ulster perspective.

The home side were having the lion’s share of possession and territory however, like in previous weeks, they could not get over the line with the orange shirts of the Scarlets holding firm time and time again.

The hosts would go in at half-time in the lead though as a searing break from scrum-half Paul Marshall enabled him the space to pass inside to his namesake Luke who had the pace to sprint over and finish in the corner.

Thomas had a chance to put the Welshmen back in front just before half-time but his kick hit the uprights, however just six minutes into the second period he was on target with a penalty to put the Scarlets ahead.

The afternoon got even worse for Ulster when Chris Henry saw yellow for repeated infringements in the 48th minute and Thomas sent over another penalty to increase the visitors’ lead.

Even worse came a few minutes later when Paddy Jackson turned down a kickable penalty to go for the corner, a decision that backfired when winger Jacob Stockdale was bundled into touch in the ensuing attack.

The hosts were able to hold out with one less man and as soon as Henry returned to the field they reduced the gap to one through a Jackson penalty in the 63rd minute.

But that was as close as they would get as the Scarlets continued to hold out firm despite the home side having more territory and possession in the final quarter of the game and it was they who would travel home with four points.

 

The scorers

For Ulster

Tries: Gilroy, L Marshall

Cons: Jackson (2)

Pen: Jackson

DG: Jackson

For Scarlets

Tries: Collins (2)

Con: Thomas

Pens: Thomas (3)

 

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave (Sam Arnold 60), Luke Marshall, Jacob Stockdale, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall (Ruan Pienaar 60); (1-8) Andrew Warwick (Kyle McCall 46), John Andrew (Jonny Murphy 46), Ricky Lutton (Bronson Ross 46), Alan O’Connor (Pete Browne 25), Franco van der Merwe (Clive Ross 70), Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Sub not used: Ian Humphreys.

Yellow card: Chris Henry (48’)

SCARLETS

(15-9) Michael Collins, Gareth Owen (Steffan Evans 40), Regan King, Hadleigh Parkes, DTH van der Merwe, Aled Thomas (Dan Jones 63), Aled Davies (Rhodri Williams 49); (1-8) Phil John (Dylan Evans 46), Kirby Myhill (Ryan Elias 63), Peter Edwards, George Earle (Maselino Paulino 54), David Bulbring, Aaron Shingler (Rory Pitman 54), Will Boyde, Morgan Allen.

Sub not used: Rhodri Jones.

 

Man of the Match: Regan King (Scarlets)

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)