Edinburgh were unable to pick up their second win of the season as Ulster got back to winning ways thanks to Andrew Trimble’s brace in Belfast.
But the game hinged on the sin-binning of skipper Mike Coman on the hour mark as Rory Best and Nick Williams ran in the clinching tries.
Coach Alan Solomons will hope to see victory at home to Dragons next weekend, but he felt they were harshly done by with the concession of 14 penalties and Comon’s yellow, which turned the game in Ulster’s favour. “The big factor was that in that second half we had nine penalties against us. And the two tries that killed us came from a maul after Mike was sent off for a yellow card,” said Solomons. “We’ve got to look at it very carefully but looking at the replays of it we weren’t sure that it was a yellow card. I thought that was the turning point in the game,” he said.
From the first scrum the home side appeared to have the upper-hand and the awarding of a fourth-minute penalty to Les Kiss’s outfit after a slipped bind was a sign of things to come. Edinburgh did win a penalty of their own at scrum time a couple of minutes later, but it was from the third scrum penalty of the half in the 11th minute that Ulster took the lead through Irish international cap Paddy Jackson.
Jackson missed a straightforward effort to double Ulster’s advantage in the 24th minute following an infringement on the ground from Anton Bresler, but two minutes later they did stretch their advantage with the game’s first try.
There appeared to be little danger as Ulster recycled ball on the Edinburgh ten metre line, but centre Stuart McCloskey was allowed to break through the centre of the ruck and Trimble was on his shoulder to gather the offload. And the Irish international winger evaded the cover tackles of Tim Visser and Greig Tonks to race in for his third try of the season.
Jackson slotted the simple conversion to give Ulster a 10-0 lead, but he had to wait until the final kick of the half to add to that total following John Andress’s slow roll away from tackling Chris Henry.
Edinburgh trailed 13-0 at the interval, but the loss of Grant Gilchrist with a blood injury right before the break was a tough blow for Alan Solomons and his side to cope with – especially against a totally dominant home side.
Kiss made ten changes for Ulster following their defeat to Zebre last week, and handed first starts to prop Ruaidhri Murphy and lock Alan O’Connor and there was a real freshness about their play at times. Solomons also made changes to his side and called up Phil Burleigh, who made a try scoring impact in last week’s clash with Scarlets, to the fly-half slot, but he was given little chance to weave his magic this time round.
Edinburgh have only beaten Ulster once in their last six games and that record didn’t look like improving any when Jackson and Ludik linked up in the 47th minute following some extremely patient phase play from Ulster, and only an excellent defensive turnover saved Edinburgh.
Despite playing on the back foot for long stretches, Edinburgh should have got on the scoreboard after 50 minutes. Burleigh pushed them into Ulster territory with a penalty to the corner, and after a brilliantly constructed maul Roddy Grant was denied the try as he was held up over the line. But perhaps Edinburgh’s night was epitomised by the attacking scrum that followed as Sean Kennedy was penalised for a crooked put-in and Ulster cleared the danger.
Edinburgh’s cause wasn’t aided by the sin binning of skipper Coman on the hour mark following one too many infringements – this time during a rolling Ulster maul. The TMO denied Nick Williams a try in the 61st minute thanks to the interventions of Bresler and Allan Dell, but two minutes later he wasn’t to be stopped and the No.8 barged over in the corner for Ulster’s second try.
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: A Trimble (2), N Williams, R Best; Pen: P Jackson (2); Con: P Jackson, S Olding.
Ulster: L Ludik (D Cave 57); A Trimble, J Payne, S McCIoskey, T Bowe; P Jackson ( S Olding 28-34 blood & 60), P Marshall; R Murphy ( A Warwick ht), R Best ( R Herring 70), W Herbst ( B Ross 63); A O’Connor, F van der Merwe ( L Stevenson 70); R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson ( N Williams 51).
Edinburgh: G Tonks ( N McLennan 40-ht blood & 70); J Cuthbert, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; P Burleigh ( T Heathcote 70), S Kennedy ( S Hidalgo-Clyne 57); R Sutherland ( Dell ht), R d ( J Hilterbrand 57), J Andress( W Nell 45); A Bresler, G Gilchrist ( O Atkins 40 blood); M Coman, R Grant ( T Leonardi 51), C Du Preez.
Referee: Claudio Blessano (FIR).