Slow start sinks Sharks in Belfast

A gallant fightback from the Sharks fell short as Ulster punished the tourists for a slow start on Friday night.

Late tries from Marius Louw and Grant Williams were not enough and Ulster clinched a 24-21 victory in Belfast.

Plenty of front-foot ball got Ulster off to a blistering start that paid off with John Cooney’s penalty giving the home side the lead.

Continuing to dominate territory and possession, Ulster strung enough phases together for Ethan McIlroy to find Michael Lowry, who went in for the score. John Cooney added the extras to take Ulster into a 10-0 lead.

The Sharks secured some possession heading into the second quarter, but it made no tangible difference as Ulster’s resolute defence maintained the lead going into the break.

Stuart McCloskey scored Ulster’s second try only minutes into the second half, with Cooney extending the advantage to 17-0. As they finished the first 40, the Sharks fought back to retain possession but it was once more negated by outstanding Ulster defence.

The away side finally managed to break through in the 62nd minute as replacement prop Ntuthuko Mchunu crashed over for the Sharks, Curwin Bosch kicking the conversion to make 17-7.  Celebrations were however short-lived as James Hume replied quickly with a try and Cooney obliged with the extras.

Building on their late surge, Marius Louw and Grant Williams scored tries accompanied by successful Boeta Chamberlain conversions. But Ulster survived the remainder of the onslaught and held on for the win.

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Juandre Joubert