Ulster Ravens 24 Jersey 19


Ulster Ravens 24 Jersey 19
British & Irish Cup, Pool 6
by William Church

On a wet and blustery night in Belfast, Ulster managed to hold on to secure the victory, but with a losing bonus point, Jersey go top of Pool 6 in the B&I cup (for 20 hours at least).

The cold and miserable weather was always likely to play a part in the game, and so it was that following the kick off by Ulster that play and possession swung both ways without either side making any meaningful headway as both teams used the high ball and neither side made progress with the ball in hand.

Jersey finally broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a powerful scrummage from 10 yards out pushing the homeside back, before recycling the ball for Rae to cross the whitewash out wide. O'Connor was unable to add the extras, but it looked as though the Islanders were starting to take a grip of proceedings.

Jersey continued on the offensive, but possession was again won and lost all too easily with handling errors in the wet, difficult conditions, and it was Ulster who were then gifted a penalty in front of the posts on the 22 and McKinney made no mistake: 3-5.

Perhaps the most telling part of the first half that ultimately cost Jersey dearly was when fullback Mcilwaine managed to weave his way to score, evading 4 tackles on the way, from a move that started on his own 10m line. The conversion went wide, but Ulster had taken the lead that they were never to relinquish. McKinney extended the advantage shortly afterwards with his second penalty to take the Ravens into half time leading by 11-5.

Jersey needed an early break through in the second period to get back in to the game, but this was not to be and Ulster having first extended the lead to 14-5 with another penalty then went further ahead as prop, Chris Taylor went over for the Ravens 2nd try on 58 minutes that was superbly converted through the swirling wind from out wide by McKinney to make it 21-5.

Jersey then made a number of changes in the front 5 and also brought on Griffiths at 9 who marshalled his forwards with greater purpose and made a couple of telling breaks. As much as Ulster had out-played Jersey during the 3rd quarter, the Islanders fought back in the latter stages of the game winning 2 penalty tries in quick succession as again the pack dominated. Both tries were easily converted by O'Connor and at 21-19 with the clock ticking down it looked as though Jersey could have sneaked the win.

Ulster did first extend the lead with another penalty when Felton was penalised for crossing having collected the ball from the restart, and as the game entered stoppage time, Jersey were quick to kick off again and were soon camped back in the Ulster 22. Following more good work by the pack, the ball was passed out wide and went to Burroughs who was caught and totally wrapped up in the tackle. He managed to get to ground but was penalised for holding on and the initiative was gone. Ulster cleared to the other end and then ran the clock down to record their first B&I cup win by 24-19.

Jersey did gain a losing bonus point and step over Cornish Pirates ahead of their encounter away to Ayr on Saturday afternoon.

Following the game Harvey said that he was disappointed with the result as he thought that the boys had done enough to earn a victory. Clearly frustrated with some of the lapses that allowed Ulster to build a strong lead, he acknowledged that Ravenhill is a difficult place to travel to, especially in light of the very early start. There were of course positives to take from the game, not least the spirit and the way in which Jersey battled back so well, and now the focus returns to the Championship and the impending visit of Plymouth Albion to St Peter next Saturday.

Ulster Ravens: Mcilwaine, Cochrane, Andrew, Farrell, Nelson, McKinney, Porter, Cromie, Annett (c), Taylor, O'Connor, McCombe, Joyce, Doyle, McComish.
Replacements: Murphy, McGrath, Rae, Taggart, Heaney, McCloskey, Busby.

Jersey: Burroughs, McCrea, Locke, Cooper, Dawson, O'Connor, Dudley, Fidler, Stratford, Young, Markham, Rae (c), Voss, Buckle, Maidment.
Replacements: Felton, Selway, McCarthy, Campbell, Bishop, Copsey, Griffiths.

Half-time: 11-5
Star Man: Mike McComish (Ulster)

Ulster Ravens

Tries: Mcllwaine, Taylor
Conversion: McKinney
Penalties: McKinney (4)

Tries: Rae, Penalty try (2)
Conversions: O'Connor (2)


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