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Pro14

Ulster count cost of bonus point win over Southern Kings

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

There were mixed emotions for Head Coach Dan McFarland as Ulster secured five points against the Southern Kings on Saturday night at the Kingspan Stadium.

The win puts Ulster into second place behind Leinster in Conference B, however the loss of Louis Ludik, Marty Moore and Darren Cave adds to the growing list of injury woes ahead of Saturday’s huge European Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster.

Saturday’s fresh injuries leave Ulster depleted in midfield, with Luke Marshall still not fully fit following an ACL injury and James Hume ruled out after breaking his ankle in training last week.

“I have got to wait and see but you saw the same as me and it did not look good,” said McFarland of fullback Louis Ludik’s injury after he was helped off the pitch by the medical team just nine minutes into the game.

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“It’s still too early to tell but we will have to assess the injuries and see how Louis is and how Darren is. Obviously James (Hume) is out. We’ll have a look at Lukey and see how he’s going on.”

McFarland joked he may have to call upon former Ireland centre and Ulster’s defence coach, Jared Payne, to fill the gap in midfield.

“Jared Payne’s wondering whether he should play, but we’re saying definitely not – you’ve had your chance,” laughed McFarland.

On a more positive note, McFarland praised Ulster number eight, Marcell Coetzee on his return to action from a hamstring injury sustained in the last European outing against the Leicester Tigers.

“It was good to have him back and he went well tonight. Marcell’s been a strong performer for us this year and it was disappointing for him and us that he hasn’t been able to play this last while but it was great to see him back out there and at his bullish self.”

Despite some superb individual performances, McFarland reflected on his sides rustiness and tendency to turn the ball over or cough it up at crucial moments. Indeed, although the win was somewhat spluttering, Ulster ran in 5 tries tuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Robert Baloucoune, Marcell Coetzee and John Andrew.

The front row did well – Herring was dynamic in his ball carrying and was solid at the set-piece. Andy Warwick put in a serious shift, tackling well can carrying over the hard yards. It was reassuring too, to see Herbst come on at loose-head and create issues for the King’s scrum.

Rob Lyttle looked dangerous in attack, squeezing his way through the King’s defence on a number of occasions – enough to earn him the man of the match award. Michael Lowry and Bobby Baloucoune are improving with every game they play and hardly put a foot wrong. Stuart McCloskey will have divided opinion – his size and power were a definite asset to Ulster however, his once frustrating habit of forcing offloads has now seemingly turned into an inability to pass. He took his try remarkably well however, and remains an important focal point of Ulster’s attack, often drawing in several defenders.

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Saturday’s win completes an impressive run in the PRO14 for Ulster, taking 21 points from a possible 25. Ulster now have three games remaining in the PRO14 with away games against Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a home fixture with Leinster.

“In the forefront of our minds is that we have to go to Glasgow and Edinburgh with their Scottish internationals back and we have the best team in Europe in the last game of the season, so we’re under no illusions to the size of the task ahead of us,” said McFarland.

“But we’ve put ourselves into the position that we said we wanted to be in.”

Of course, Ulster’s focus will now change swiftly to Saturday’s Champion’s Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster at the Aviva stadium against defending champions Leinster. Although it is hoped Ulster’s fourth consecutive PRO14 win will give Ulster significant momentum ahead of this weekend, McFarland notes that, while Leinster rested a number of key players in their game against Edinburgh this weekend, that was a luxury Ulster could not afford.

“I think it is a question of the context,” he said. “Leinster are top, so in the context of the conference itself it does not matter even if it obviously matters to them that they lost in Edinburgh and they’ll be disappointed in that. They were able to rest a lot of their players.”

“We are in a different position, we are in a ridiculously difficult conference where there is a fight going on and we needed to make sure that we got the maximum points. We do not have as big a squad, guys step up and they play.”

Despite some excellent performances this season, particularly in the Champions Cup competition, McFarland is confident Ulster have a lot more to offer. Indeed, Ulster will now focus their preparation on producing a memorable performance on Saturday against Leinster, who are considered by many to be strong favourites.

“We have put in some good performances in Europe already, but recently we have not strung together a really good 80 minutes yet. In order to win next week we will. There is literally no doubt about that.”

“We will have to be at our best,” added McFarland.

Indeed, Ulster will require an exceptional performance to challenge this great Leinster side.  It is worth bearing in mind Leinster have injury problems of their own – Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier are all expected absent and several players will still be reeling from Ireland’s six nations capitulation.

For Ulster, finding a centre partner for Stuart McCloskey will be crucial as will proving the fitness of Marty Moore ahead of Saturday – the pack’s cornerstone. Given the sizeable Leinster contingent in this squad, Ulster’s ‘blue streak’ will have a point to prove in Dublin this Saturday.

In the words of Sportscaster Al Michaels, ‘Do you believe in miracles? YES!’

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS:

Pro14

Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup set for ‘North v South’ final showdown

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The Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup is set to culminate in a ‘North v South’ final on June 19 so that the dual tournaments operating in Europe and South Africa will tie together to produce one winner.

Planning is now at an advanced stage and all written approvals are expected imminently for the game to take place at a European venue.

At this stage in the process it was important for teams, their fans, broadcasters and sponsors to hear of these developments ahead of this weekend’s Rainbow Cup games in Europe and South Africa.

The northern representative in the final shall be the team who finishes first in the table among the 12 teams in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup while the Southern representative shall be the side who ranks first in the Rainbow Cup SA competition.

Further details on the ‘North v South’ Guinness Rainbow Cup Final will be provided next week.

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby

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Pro14

Kinghorn to become youngest Edinburgh centurion

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Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Blair Kinghorn will become the youngest player to reach 100 Edinburgh Rugby appearances tomorrow night when he returns to face inter-city rivals Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup at BT Murrayfield Stadium (15 May, kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports.

Born and raised in the capital, Kinghorn will surpass the feat of former scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (24 years and 169 days) in becoming the club’s 35th centurion aged 24 years and 117 days, five years on from his debut against Benetton Rugby at the national stadium in October 2016.

The full-back – who has also racked up 25 caps for his country – extended his contract with his hometown team earlier this year and returns from compassionate leave to replace the injured Duhan van der Merwe, with Damien Hoyland moving to wing and Eroni Sau completing the back three.

A new midfield partnership of Chris Dean and James Johnstone starts the match – with centre George Taylor moving to the bench – while 21-year-old stand-off Charlie Savala comes in for Nathan Chamberlain to make his first home appearance alongside Henry Pyrgos at half-back.

A further three starting changes are made to the pack, with co-captain and hooker Stuart McInally – who made a try-scoring return from injury as a replacement last weekend – accompanying Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel in the front-row, with Mike Willemse joining the squad as replacement hooker.

Forwards Marshall Sykes (lock) and Mesu Kunavula (back-row) are promoted from the bench in place of injured pair Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie, with Ally Miller and Connor Boyle taking their vacated forwards replacements berths on the bench.

Back-row Luke Crosbie, lock Jamie Hodgson and number 8 Viliame Mata are reselected and complete the pack.

Head Coach Richard Cockerill said: “We’ve worked hard to address a few things our game that contributed to a frustrating defeat to Glasgow last weekend, while also ensuring some of the parts that went well continue to be a source of strength for us.

“Every time we pull on an Edinburgh shirt we play to win and we’ve picked a side we feel has a good balance of experienced internationalists, those competing for places and some young, up-and-coming prospects in our squad, who get a chance alongside some seasoned pros.

“We’re still very much in this competition and tomorrow’s game will play a big part in whether that remains to be the case, so we’ll be going out there to front up physically, first and foremost, get our basics right, and put a marker down for the standards we expect from one to 15.”

Edinburgh Rugby team to play Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield Stadium
Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup, Saturday 15 May (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports

15. Blair Kinghorn (99)

14. Damien Hoyland (84)
13. James Johnstone (63)
12. Chris Dean (107)
11. Eroni Sau (24)

10. Charlie Savala (1)
9. Henry Pyrgos (50)

1. Pierre Schoeman (62)
2. Stuart McInally CO-CAPTAIN (152)
3. WP Nel (154)
4. Marshall Sykes (5)
5. Jamie Hodgson (21)
6. Mesu Kunavula (10)
7. Luke Crosbie CO-CAPTAIN (56)
8. Viliame Mata (88)

Substitutes:

16. Mike Willemse (37)
17. Boan Venter (5)
18. Lee-Roy Atalifo (9)
19. Ally Miller (23)
20. Connor Boyle (5)
21. Charlie Shiel (34)
22. Jack Blain (13)
23. George Taylor (35)

Unavailable through injury (19): Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael, Matt Currie, Andrew Davidson, Andries Ferreira, Dan Gamble, Grant Gilchrist, Darcy Graham, Sam Grahamslaw, Nick Haining, Dan Nutton, Freddie Owsley, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Nathan Sweeney, Ben Toolis, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Hamish Watson.

Source – Edinburgh Rugby

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Pro14

Will Addison banned following Ulster v Munster Red-Card

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland back Will Addison has been banned for four weeks as a result of his red card in last Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup match against Munster.

Addison was shown a red card by WRU referee Craig Evans under law 9.13 – a player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.

Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the lie of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.

The disciplinary process for the red card offence was presided over by judicial officer Rhian Williams (WRU) who concluded that a mid-range offence had occurred, with a mid-range entry point of six weeks.

In order to determine the ultimate sanction, the judicial officer considered the lack of aggravating circumstances and the range of mitigating factors advanced by Addison.

The 28-year-old, who only returned from long-term back and calf injuries last month, is suspended from participating in the next four meaningful matches.

Should a game be cancelled or postponed during this window of games, Addison and PRO14 are to submit updated fixtures to the disciplinary panel so the return date can be advised.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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