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Pro14

Bonus point win for Ulster in opener v Ospreys.

Double for Gilroy.

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Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster got their Guinness PRO14 campaign underway on Friday evening against the Ospreys in Belfast. Ulster gave new summer singings, Sam Carter, Matt Faddes and Jack McGrath their debuts but were forced into a late change with Jordi Murphy being withdrawn just before kick-off as a precaution for Jack Conan who has picked up a foot injury in Japan. Greg Jones came into the side starting at 8 with Clive Ross taking his spot on the bench.

Ospreys got the first points of the evening after an Ulster infringement allowed Luke Price to have an easy shot at goal. It wasn’t long until they were back on the scoreboard after a great try from Ospreys Full-Back Dan Evans. A quick snap from Aubrey to Price caught the Ulster inside defence out with Dan Evans running a great inside line bursting through the line untouched, still with a lot to do Evans feinted inside turning Lyttle’s shoulders before taking the outside, Lyttle caught Evans just shy of the line but the Ospreys veteran just did enough to touch down for the unconverted try.

Ulster were offered their first points of the evening after the Ospreys gave away a breakdown penalty following a strong carry and off-load from James Hume. Cooney pushed his attempt wide of the right post leaving the Ospreys ahead on the scoreboard by 8.

Ulster shortly made their way back into the Ospreys 22 with an attacking line-out providing a good platform for the Ulster backline to launch from. With the Ulster pack rumbling forward, the ball came loose but was fed to Ulster Out-Half who dinked the ball wide with a flat cross-field kick that was gathered after one bounce by returning winger Craig Gilroy. Cooney after missing a relatively simple penalty only minutes earlier made it a 7-pointer with the ball clearing the bar via the left upright narrowing the Ospreys lead to just 1 point. 7-8.

Ospreys increased their lead further with Luke Price landing a 50m penalty for the Welsh side after Greg Jones was judged to have held on in the contact.

With it being the first game of the season, handling errors were plentiful for both sides but Ulster certainly looked the more dangerous when in possession. Billie Burns successfully found Rob Lyttle with another beautiful dinked cross-field. Lyttle showed great strength and pace but perhaps had the option to feed new signing Matt Faddes with a simple 2 v 1 but opted to go himself only to be hauled down short of the line. Cooney had a dart from close range but was held up. Thankfully for Ulster, Ospreys winger Luke Morgan was off-side, yellow carded and the Ulster pack were given another bash at the try line off a driving maul. After several phases, Greg Jones got across the line for a converted try with Ulster taking a 14-11 lead.

Ospreys lost lock, James king to injury just prior to half time, Baker replaced him making his first competitive appearance in almost 2 years following a horror injury. 2 penalties in quick succession from Ulster gave the Ospreys territory and a chance to draw level. Luke Price again converting.

On the stroke of half-time Ulster regained the lead. John Cooney could easily have been judged to have played the Ospreys 9 but the ref waved play-on and a strong Ulster counter attack that included another strong carry from James Hume followed by a quick pick from Rob Lyttle saw Ulster stretch the Ospreys defence. Quick ball allowed the ball to come wide to Craig Gilroy who turned from scorer to provider with a skip pass to Matt Faddes who finished well in the corner on debut. Cooney nailed the touchline conversion to send Ulster in at half-time 21-14 up.

HT – Ulster 21 – 14 Ospreys.

The 2nd-half started off a little duller than the first, literally, with one set of floodlights failing. Cooney was on-hand shortly into the 2nd-half to extend the Ulster lead with another penalty and it wasn’t long until Ulster secured their bonus point.

Faddes and Lyttle linked up well on several occasions before Burns was given another opportunity to drop it onto the foot for another cross-field for Gilroy. This time he collected it on the full, scoring the bonus point try under the posts giving Cooney an easy conversion.

With the bonus point in the bag, Burns was withdrawn with the lively Michael Lowry coming on at Out-Half. Ulster continued to pin back the Ospreys with Lowry and Faddes putting the pull in behind the Ospreys defence on several occasions.

Ulster continued to dominate possession and territory throughout the second half but it wasn’t until the 70th minute before the scoreboard was moved again. Debutant Faddes picked up a loose kick and glided through the Osprey defence linking up again with the dangerous Lyttle. He chipped over the remaining defenders and as he was about to stretch out to touch down the bouncing ball, Ospreys winger, Morgan was adjudged to have played him without the ball by the TMO. Controversially Ulster were awarded a penalty try and Morgan was given his second yellow card of the game.

Ospreys finished the game by finally playing some rugby in the Ulster 22. After several phases they eventually got across the try line but after a TMO review it was adjudged that the line breaking pass was forward.

FT – Ulster 38 – 14 Ospreys.

A very positive opening performance from Ulster to kick off their season. New signings Carter, McGrath and Faddes all impressed, especially Faddes who combined well with Rob Lyttle on several occasions. Ulster fans will also be glad to see Craig Gilroy return to action after a long spell on the sidelines. Other impressive performances came from young centre, James Hume who looked dangerous in attack with several strong carries. Mike Lowry looked a threat every time he touched the ball and Sean Reidy put in a huge shift with 16 tackles. Rob Lyttle got special praise from Ulster Head coach Dan McFarland in the post-match press conference, not just for his continual attacking threat but also for his defensive display and his fight and willingness to keep the ball alive.

Man of the Match was awarded to Billie Burns. Despite only playing 50 minutes he had a huge influence in the game with 3 pinpoint cross-field kicks, 2 of which directly resulted in tries and another which ultimately led to a try being scored just a few phases later. He spoke with Premier Sports post-game.

Ulster head to South Africa on Tuesday for their next round of PRO14 Fixtures where they will face the Cheetahs and Southern Kings. McFarland is planning on taking a 28-man squad to South Africa which could include Springbok Marcel Coetzee who is on track to make a faster than expected return from injury. Coetzee suffered a syndesmosis injury and had surgery just 5 weeks ago but is hoping to be back in action within the next 2-3 weeks. Stuart McCloskey has picked up a ‘lower limb’ injury and will be doubtful to make the trip.

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

Premiership

Ulster to play Saracens in Pre-Season doubleheader.

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Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster Rugby will get the 2021/22 season underway with home and away pre-season friendlies against Saracens in September. 

The Ulster men will face the five-time Premiership and three-times Champions Cup winners at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 3 September (kick-off 7pm).

The squad will then make the journey to central London for the away clash on Thursday 9 September (kick-off 5pm) at the Honorary Artillery Company. 

This will be the first time the two sides have faced each other since the pool stages of the 2015/2016 Heineken Champions Cup.

Both matches against Sarries, who return to the Gallagher Premiership this season, will act as preparation for Ulster ahead of the newly launched United Rugby Championship, and the challenges they will face in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Admission to the home pre-season friendly on 3 September is included in 2021/22 Season Tickets, as well as access to all home regular season fixtures in the United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup.

Existing Season Ticket holders have until 5pm this Friday (30 July) to renew their packages, and can do so online at ulsterrugby.com/seasontickets.

New purchasers can ensure they are notified first about new Season Tickets as they become available by registering their interest here.

The availability of match tickets sold individually will be dependent upon available capacity, in-line with government regulations. Further details will be released in due course.

Source – Ulster Rugby

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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Pro14

Sharks sign former Wallaby & Munster 2nd Row.

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The Cell C Sharks are delighted to welcome three new players to the Shark tank as we continue to build our squad ahead of the United Rugby Championship (URC), commencing in September.

Due to the longevity of the URC Tournament, in is important to bolster squad depth and have the talent to be a success in this grueling northern hemisphere competition, while balancing player welfare.

To this end, the Cell C Sharks will be welcoming both local and international flavour to Durban and are proud to announce the signings of centre Ben Tapuai, utility back Eduan Keyter and lock Gerbrandt Grobler.

Tapuai is a former Reds Super Rugby star who spent six years in Brisbane where he accumulated 64 appearances, before adding a further 12 with the Western Force. During that time, he made seven test appearances for the Wallabies between 2011 and 2012.

He has spent the last five years playing in the UK and will bring huge amounts of intellectual capital given his experiences of northern hemisphere rugby for Bath and Harlequins where he is approaching a combined 100 appearances for the English teams.

So highly rated was he as a youngster that he he was selected for the 2007 Australian Schoolboys team ahead of James O’Connor. No stranger to success, he played in the 2011 Super Rugby final won by the Reds and more recently in Harlequins’ Premiership final victory last month.

25-year-old Eduan Keyter recently impressed against the Cell C Sharks in the opening round of their Carling Currie Cup clash and is currently the top try-scorer in the competition with six touchdowns.

He made his senior debut against the Cell C Sharks two years ago in Griquas’ 37-13 victory over the Cell C Sharks and in the most recent match, won by the Cell C Sharks (30-16) in Kimberley, Keyter scored one of his team’s two tries.

The third signing, Gerbrandt Grobler, currently hails from Stade Francais. He is a local talent who started his junior career with the Bulls but moved to Western Province as a senior, representing the province at Currie Cup level and the Stormers in Super Rugby between 2012 and 2014 before making the move north.

He has played high profile rugby in both the UK and France, moving from Cape Town in South Africa to Racing 92 for two years before moving to Ireland where he turned out for Munster, then to England where he enjoyed two seasons with Gloucester, playing under former Sharks lock and Lions coach Johan Ackermann before returning to the Top 14 with Stade Francais last year.

We welcome the three new signings to a Cell C Sharks side committed to playing an awesome exciting and winning brand of rugby, with the aim of becoming an internationally acclaimed team that tastes success and wins silverware on a regular basis.

Source Cell C Sharks

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Pro14

Edinburgh Rugby appoint new Head Coach

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Edinburgh Rugby have appointed Scotland Assistant Coach Mike Blair as the club’s new Head Coach.

The former Edinburgh and Scotland captain made over 150 appearances for the club (2001-2012) and returns from a five-year term with the national team, where he was recruited by Head Coach Gregor Townsend to occupy a dual role with Glasgow Warriors in 2017.

He joined Glasgow as Assistant Coach in 2016 and operated in that capacity for club and country until 2019 – helping the club reach the PRO14 semi-final and Grand Final (2018 and 2019) and two Champions Cup quarter-finals (2017 and 2019) – before focussing fully on national team matters for the past two years.

Blair’s contribution was recognised recently with his appointment as Interim Scotland Head Coach, only for the matches to be abandoned as coronavirus affected the camp and that of their opponents.

The recent departure of Richard Cockerill then presented a timely opportunity for Blair to take on the reins of the club he represented over a decade, having been born and bred in the capital city and schooled at Edinburgh Academy.

Mike Blair, said: “The first emotion is one of pride. I’ve lived in Edinburgh most of my life, played 11 seasons at the club and still live in the city, so having that attachment combine with the opportunity to lead the squad is really special for me.

“I’ve learned a lot from working with quality coaches like Dave Rennie, Jason O’Halloran and Gregor Townsend, in particular and over the years, and have been able to develop and adapt a philosophy that I feel should benefit the talent we have at the club.

“It’s a really exciting squad. There’s a good balance of experience and backgrounds and I’m looking forward to getting to know the players and their strengths better so we can mould that into making Edinburgh both good to watch and successful.

“It’s also a really good time to come in with all the excitement around the launch of the new stadium this summer. It’s a massive, watershed moment for the club. We all want to get that packed out with supporters from the outset and build an atmosphere the players deserve and the fans can be proud of.”

Edinburgh Rugby Managing Director, Douglas Struth, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Mike back to the club as our Head Coach, having watched his development into a first-rate coach over the past six years.

“Not only does he bring that expertise, but Mike is also a local man, a club centurion, and somebody who became a home-grown legend in an Edinburgh Rugby jersey.

“That’s really important to us and is a fantastic illustration of our ambition to promote and develop local stars of the future.

“It’s a new era for the club, with a new stadium and new tournament formats, and we believe Mike is the right man to continue the development of our tactical approach and winning mentality on the field, and our culture and connection to the wider rugby community off it.”

Prior to coaching, Blair was a player of worldwide repute.

He earned 85 caps for his country and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 – the same year Edinburgh Rugby finished as runners-up in the then Magners League – and played a major role in the club’s storied run to the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2012.

He also played professional club rugby in England for Newcastle Falcons and in France with Brive, all experiences which contribute significantly to his depth of knowledge and understanding of the sport.

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive, Mark Dodson, said: “We’re really pleased to see Mike take this next step on his coaching journey with Edinburgh Rugby, recognising the excellent contribution he’s made at both Glasgow and Scotland over the past six years.

“He’s an exceptional Scottish coach who is hungry to deliver success for a club he cares a great deal about.

“He’s done a fantastic job of developing players in all of his roles, many of whom have shone on the biggest stage for Scotland and, more recently, the British & Irish Lions.

“We’re looking forward to watching him and the club develop further, together, as the beginning of this new era for Edinburgh Rugby, targeting a regular return to the knockout rounds of domestic and European Cup competitions and competing for silverware in the seasons ahead.

“His existing knowledge of the player group and lasting affinity with the club’s fanbase make this an excellent and exciting appointment.”

Source – Scotland Rugby

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