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Ulster A 32 Cardiff Blues A 5

Pathway | 31st August 2019

Cardiff Blues A suffered a frustrating evening in the Northern Irish capital, as Ulster sealed a bonus point victory in the second round of Celtic Cup action.

It was a crisp evening at Malone RFC, where the hosts dominated the opening quarter. 

The visitors did show promise as half time approach, and seemingly grew confidence, but the clinical Ulster side crossed for three tries in the second half, with Wales’ Capital Region adding a late score courtesy of Pontypridd’s Dale Stuckey.

Next week sees Cardiff Blues A take on Dragons A at the annual Summerfest event, with both sides set to field senior squad members for what should be an entertaining affair at Cardiff Arms Park.

There was an early blow for the visitors, as back row Nathan Hudd was forced off in the opening exchanges, and replaced by Alex Everett.

Ulster enjoyed the shares of possession and territory, but the likes of Sam Beard and Jamie Hill set the tone with crucial defensive interventions.

Prop Callum Reid was the unlikely player to break the line, and has he rumbled towards the final man in defence, Ioan Davies, there was a clear physical mis-match.

However, the Wales under-20 international put in a thunderous hit to deny an almost certain try and steal possession.

Despite their attacking opportunities, Ulster had to settle for a penalty to break the deadlock, with Bruce Houston making no mistakes from the tee.

The hosts finally made their pressure count as they crashed over from close range for the game’s first try. Beard, forced to sweep up loose possession, was rumbled over his own try line, allowing Ross Adair to touch down from the resulting scrum.

Scrum half Hill was the instigator of his side’s first attacking opportunity. The youngster broke from the base of a scrum, and timed his pass wide to Dafydd Smith. The Wales Sevens wing was stopped short but earned his side a penalty. However, the following line-out was stolen against the head. 

Ulster were reduced to 14 men as number eight Azur Allison sent to the sin bin, but it did not stop Houston from opening an 11-point lead with another straight-forward penalty.

The visitors responded with a good period in attack, and could count themselves desperately unlucky not to open their account for the evening.

With advantage on their side, both Gareth Thompson and Barney Nightingale found space with clever kicks behind the home defensive line, but twice the ball evaded the path of wings Dale Stuckey and Smith.

The visitors went into the break with an 11-point lead, but extended that to 18 soon after play restarted with another close range effort.

Ulster added a third in impressive fashion, as they broke from inside their own half, and managed to keep the ball alive, with the supporting Conor Rankin on hand to take the final pass and slide in.

Adair managed to worm his way to the whitewash to add a second, but Cardiff Blues did respond to register on the scoreboard.

After getting under a high ball, wing Smith showed impressive footwork to beat two defenders, before shipping wide to Stuckey.

The Pontypridd star had plenty to do, and hacked past the final defender, winning the footrace to the line.