Trimble late show earns Ulster draw

Date published: September 6 2014

Ulster and the Scarlets served up a thrilling 32-32 draw at Parc y Scarlets in their Pro12 opener.

Ulster and the Scarlets served up a thrilling 32-32 draw at Parc y Scarlets in their Pro12 opener.

The hosts built up an emphatic lead with a brace from Gareth Davies, as well as tries from Rory Pitman and rookie winger, Harry Robinson.

The Llanelli-based side looked to have romped home at one stage, but Ulster staged an impressive comeback through tries from Louis Ludik and Andrew Trimble, which complemented first half efforts from Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe.

The Scarlets will be frustrated for letting a game they controlled for prolonged periods get away from them, and Ulster will certainly be happier with the draw.

The Irish visitors made a bright start with ball in hand, but the Scarlets did well to absorb the pressure.

Such defensive nous yielded an early turnover, and some speedy handing saw debutant Robinson get over in the corner. Priestland converted to give the hosts a perfect 7-0 lead.

The intensity of the Welshmen was a shock to Ulster's system, but the Irishmen gradually regained their composure by establishing field position.

The men in white patiently went through the phases, and on eight minutes van der Merwe barged over the whitewash. Humpreys converted to level things up at 7-7.

The contest was now pretty even, and Priestland regained the lead for the Scarlets on 11 minutes.

But it was the second row show from an Ulster perspective, as international lock, Tuohy finished off a period of sustained pressure on the 13-minute mark. Humphreys missed the extra points to make it 10-12 to Ulster.

The visitors looked sharp in midfield, with Humpreys and Stuart Olding, returning from serious injury this season, pulling the strings.

Despite glimpses of fluidity, unwelcome gaps were evident in both defences.

The Scarlets were winning plenty of decent ball, but at times struggled to convert this possession into points.

But the power of the Welsh region was beginning to tell, and on 25 minutes big number eight Pitman got over for them. Priestland converted to give the Scarlets a healthy 17-12 lead.

The scoring seemed to have continued at a blistering rate as newcomer Ludik got over the line following a strong break by Olding on 28 minutes, but the TMO ruled out the effort for obstruction.

But Humpreys did narrow the gap for Ulster on 30 minutes when he nailed a superb long range penalty.

Although error-ridden, the game was undoubtedly compelling.

Fittingly, it was the hosts that had the last word of the half when Paul Marshall surrendered the ball to Jake Ball who put scrum-half Davies away.

Davies still had plenty of work to do, and did well to evade several Ulster defenders before touching down. Priestland continued his excellent form to make it 24-15 at the interval.

The second half continued with the Scarlets in the ascendancy. And Priestland added another three points on 45 minutes following a clumsy challenge by Tuohy.

Indiscipline was the order of the day at this stage of the game, with both sides having men in the bin. Humphreys reduced the deficit to nine points on 28 minutes to leave it 27-18 to the Scarlets.

The Welsh side was now in the box seat, but Ulster were still very much in the contest. Davies got over for his brace on 63 minutes when he was the beneficiary of a sublime offload from Pitman. Priestland missed the conversion to make it 32-18.

But the visitors weren't finished, and Ludik finally got over on 67 minutes for a well-taken try. Humphreys converted to bring it back to 32-25.

An unlikely comeback seemed on the cards, but the Welshmen were defending tenaciously.

Their resistance was not without cost, though, as Liam Williams was red carded at the death. And somehow the Irishmen succeeded in snatching a draw.

Incredibly, replacement winger Trimble equalised proceedings on 79 minutes when he collected the ball from Paul Marshall following a five-metre scrum. Humphreys converted to earn his side a share of the spoils.

A thrilling finish to an entertaining game, but the Scarlets will definitely see the outcome as an opportunity lost.

The scorers:

For Scarlets:
Tries: Robinson, Pitman, Davies 2
Conversions: Priestland 3
Penalties: Priestland 2
Yellow cards: Williams 2
Red card: Williams

For Ulster:
Tries: van der Merwe, Tuohy, Ludik, Trimble
Conversions: Humphreys 3
Penalties: Humphreys 2
Yellow card: Tuohy

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Regan King, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rory Pitman, 7 John Barclay, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Gareth Owen

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Chris Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson (c), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Andrew Trimble.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)

By Rory McGimpsey