Edinburgh grab a bonus point in stormy Ulster

Sean Kennedy clears under pressure. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Sean Kennedy clears under pressure. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
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Cornell Du Preez’s second-half try sealed a losing bonus point for Edinburgh as they failed to win at Kingspan Stadium yet again in the Pro12.

Alan Solomons’ side had not beaten Ulster away from home since a 16-13 win in 2009-10, and prior to this season the Irish side had beaten Edinburgh four times in a row.

Solomons signed a contract extension to keep him at the club until at least the end of next season yesterday.

Edinburgh had been in scintillating form prior to this, and have back-to-back Challenge Cup ties with London Irish coming up, followed by a massive 1872 Scottish Cup derby with Glasgow on December 27.

But despite the best efforts of 24-year-old Du Preez, who scored his fourth try of the season, Edinburgh came up short in treacherous conditions in Belfast.

Ulster bagged a penalty try early on, and when Rory Scholes added to that after just 11 minutes it looked like they would run away with it. But Edinburgh hung in there and Du Preez’s second-half effort meant they left with the losing bonus point.

Ulster lost Iain Henderson and Darren Cave to injury early on, but even with all of the upheaval they were by far the better side in the opening half and led 14-0 at half-time.

From the outset Ulster laid down a marker and Ruan Pienaar’s wonderful touch finder in the fourth minute ensured they would play the opening few minutes deep in Edinburgh territory. Nick Williams blocked down the subsequent clearance from Sean Kennedy as Edinburgh rode their luck.

From the next lineout Ulster went ahead. From the back of a rolling maul Chris Henry peeled and drove forward but was held up short. When Pienaar looked set to touch down Edinburgh captain Mike Coman stopped him illegally and a penalty try ws awarded.

It was no more than Ulster deserved after their early endeavours and Paddy Jackson’s conversion made it 7-0 after six minutes.

With Edinburgh playing into the teeth of a massive breeze they couldn’t take advantage of their first opportunity.

After eight minutes Williams was penalised at the breakdown, but Jack Cuthbert’s kick came up short and Ulster were let off.

Edinburgh needed to take every chance they could muster and crucially the next score came from Ulster, and winger Scholes.

It was just three minutes later when he was on the end of a wonderful sweeping move that involved a smart inside pass from Jackson who sent Louis Ludik free, and when he got the ball to Scholes, the Ulster wing side stepped beat Dougie Fife to dot down.

Jackson slotted the conversion and it could have been three tries had Williams not knocked on when he attempted an audacious one-handed off-load ten minutes later.

Last week’s 32-13 win over the Dragons was a great lift for Edinburgh, but it wasn’t until 20 minutes in that the visitors really took the game to Ulster, but that move broke down when Phil Burleigh sent his pass forward.

Ulster were level on points with Edinburgh in the Pro12 coming into this game, but after their hard earned losing bonus point at Leinster last weekend, the hosts looked like a side growing in confidence.

Director of rugby Les Kiss is still in his infancy at the club, but the former assistant to Joe Schmidt for Ireland has had more time to get to know his players and they have home and away ties against Toulouse on the horizon.

They saw out the half and led 14-0 at the break, but Edinburgh struck first after half-time with Du Preez crossing the whitewash in the 48th minute.

Burleigh put Ulster on the back foot when a powerful Edinburgh scrum won a penalty, and replacement hooker Neil Cochrane nearly touched down after a lineout move. But Du Preez had acres of space and Burleigh sent a chip through for the try.

Cuthbert’s conversion brought it back to 14-7, but it was all Ulster again after that as the home side looked to push home their advantage.

Luke Marshall dotted down late on but his try was ruled out, and Kiss’s side held on for a valuable win as they moved back ahead of Edinburgh in the standings.

Scorers – Ulster: Penalty try, R Scholes try; P Jackson 2 cons. Edinburgh: C Du Preez try; J Cuthbert con

Ulster: Nelson (McCloskey 29); Trimble, Cave (Ludik 7), L Marshall, Scholes (P Marshall 35-40); Jackson, Pienaar; McCall (Warwick 63), Herring (capt), Lutton (Herbst 43); Tuohy (Andrew 61), Van der Merwe (O’Connor 59); Henderson (Ross 5), Henry, Williams

Unused sub: none

Edinburgh: Cuthbert (Kinghorn 55); Fife, Dean (Allen 67), Scott, Helu; Burleigh, Kennedy (Fowles 56); Dickinson (Sutherland 48), Ford (Cochrane 48), Nel (Andress 48), Bresler, Toolis; Coman (capt)(Watson 23-29, 42), Hardie, Du Preez.

Unused sub: Ritchie

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)

Attendance: 12,640