Scarlet 39 Ulster 55
A tremendous individual performance from scrumhalf John Cooney, who scored 30 points, fueled Ulster to an impressive win over the Scarlets on Saturday afternoon at Llanelli.
This was an extremely entertaining affair with 12 tries in total, but Ulster’s power and ruthlessness in attack made all the difference. Dan McFarland’s side will be disappointed to concede 39 points but their attacking game was on point and they look like serious contenders for the United Rugby Championship this season.
Ulster came out of the blocks and fired with an early break from Aaron Sexton putting the visitors on the front foot. The hosts turned the pressure into points when Al O’Connor thought from close range and Marty Moore sent in a second cross a few minutes later.
But the Scarlets refused to throw in the towel and engaged with a massive offload from Vaea Fifita that cleared Corey Baldwin before Jonathan Davies burst through a weak tackle from Andrew Warwick to score.
An outside break from Sam Costelow with nice interplay between the back and forwards before a huge relief from Blade Thomson sent Ryan Conbeer into the far left corner. Costelow pushed the Scarlets forward off the tee a few minutes later and it was Ulster’s turn to dig in defensively.
The hosts were now putting serious pressure on the Ulster line but a huge turnover from Marcus Rea got them out of jail. The Scarlets would live to regret their waste, however, as the formidable outhalf Costelow was sent into the sin trap for knocking out Sexton in their air.
That was just what Ulster needed as they regained the lead with a well-crafted try as Michael Lowry pulled away before catching the last defender to pass Cooney. And Lowry was the architect of their fourth try with his incisive break that saw Rea claim the bonus point to give Ulster a commanding 28-15 lead at the break.
Just when Ulster thought that game was in the bag, the Scarlets struck back when former All Blacks star Fifita intercepted Billy Burns’ pass to run in unhindered from 45 yards. But whenever the Scarlets felt like they were back in the game, Ulster hit back and Cooney grabbed his second before Hughes scored again for the hosts.
Hughes snuck over for the Scarlets again before a Rhys Patchell penalty made it a one-point game again. But a late yellow card for Fifita reduced Scarlets to 14 men before Tom O’Toole sealed victory with Ulster’s seventh try.
Scarlet: I Nicholas; Baldwin C, Davies J, Williams J, Conbeer R; S Costelow, G Davies; S Thomas, R Elias, J Sebastian; V Fifita, S. Lousi; B. Thomson, J. MacLeod, S. Kalamafoni.
Substitute: R. Patchell for Nicholas (41 mins), D. Hughes for Elias, T. Price for Thomson (both 44th), K. Hardy for G. Davies, D. Jones for S. Costelow (both 55th), H .O’Connor for Sebastian (65th), L Giannini for Macleod (71), S O’Connor for Thomas (79).
ULSTER: M Lowry; A Sexton, L. Marshall, S. McCloskey, J. Stockdale; B. Burns, J. Cooney; A Warwick, R Hering, M Moore; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; M.Rea, M.Rea, N. Timoney.
Substitutes: T O’Toole for Moore (23 mins), C Gilroy for Sexton (33 mins), E O’Sullivan for Warwick (46 mins), S Carter Treadwell, S Reffell for Rea (both 55 mins) ), A. Curtis for Marshall (65 ).
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa).