Ulster boosted their Pro14 playoff hopes by claiming a 33-19 win over the Kings in Belfast on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The hosts climbed above Benetton Treviso to second place in Conference B, while the Kings remain second from bottom in the conference following their 16th defeat of the season.
Ulster made a positive start to the match, as Stuart McCloskey brought them into opposition territory before popping up again and using his strength to crash over.
The hosts received a blow as Louis Ludik limped off the field with a leg injury. However, it did not seem to disrupt the side too much as Ludik’s replacement, Michael Lowery, made a strong run and set up wing Rob Lyttle for the second try of the match.
The Kings then applied some pressure of their own and after taking the ball through 17 phases, wing Yaw Penxe freed himself up out wide and scored.
The Port Elizabeth-based side got their second, minutes later, in somewhat amusing fashion as fullback Ulrich Beyers tried to run onto an offload from Tertius Kruger and thought he had knocked on but wisely played to the whistle and scooped up the ball and dotted down over the line. A TMO replay showed the ball had rebounded off his stomach and then leg, and awarded the try, which suddenly brought the Kings to within three points of the lead.
Ulster then hit back when a maul brought them close and Marcell Coetzee got his second try of the season to make it 21-12 at half-time.
After sustaining a brief period of pressure, Ulster went on the hunt for the bonus-point try, which they got when a maul sucked in Kings defenders and freed up Robert Baloucoune, who went over near the corner.
The Kings again responded by going upfield and taking the game to the Irish side, but were well contained by some strong defence from the hosts.
They made it a nervous end to the game when Michael Willemse muscled over from short range, to make it a nine-point game with 15 minutes to go.
However, Kruger was then red-carded for a head-high shoulder charge, while Alandre van Rooyen was yellow-carded for a high tackle, leaving the Kings with 13 men for the remainder of the match.
Ulster added a further try when replacement hooker John Andrew went over from the back of a maul.
Ulster – Tries: Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Marcell Coetzee, Robert Baloucoune, John Andrew. Conversions: Billy Burns (4).
Kings – Tries: Yaw Penxe, Ulrich Beyers, Michael Willemse. Conversion: Bader Pretorius (2).
Ulster – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Robert Lyttle, 10 Billy Burns, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Subs: 16 John Andrew, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Clive Ross, 21 John Cooney, 22 Michael Lowry, 23 Angus Kernohan.
Kings – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Rokoua Meli, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Bakkies Brown, 5 JC Astle (c), 4 Andries van Schalkwyk, 3 De-Jay Terblanché, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Alulutho Tshakweni.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Lupumlo Mguca, 19 Stefan Greef, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images