Ulster too strong for Blues

Date published: December 3 2016

Ulster outscored Cardiff Blues five tries to three for a 35-22 win in the PRO12 on Saturday night.

First half tries from Charles Piutau, Stuart McCloskey and Kyle McCall put Ulster well ahead at the break, with Cardiff having only a Kristian Dacey try to show for their efforts. 

Chris Henry increased the lead in the second half, with Willis Halaholo and Alex Cuthbert's late efforts cut off by Darren Cave at the death. 

Having lost Sam Warburton and Jarrad Hoeata prior to kick-off due to illness, Cardiff put in an impressive opening 10. Steve Shingler kicked them ahead with the opening penalty of the evening, with Blues on top in the early exchanges. But that ended as they found themselves a man down, Blaine Scully shown a yellow card that almost instantly produced the first try. 

Ulster took a four-point lead after the conversion, Ruan Pienaar finishing off a big spell of pressure that saw Piutau go over at the side. 

It got worse for Cardiff, who were punished twice inside the space of five minutes. McCloskey was allowed to run through the Blues backline, who stepped aside to allow Ulster's lead to grow, with the conversion again following. 

Scully's return to the field saw Cardiff seize back the momentum, but not before they conceded a third soft try. Pienaar charged down an attempted clearance and possession fell to McCall, who added to Cardiff's blues. 

They were given a glimmer of hope though right on the whistle, with Dacey grabbing their first try. Rey Lee-Lo did the work in the build-up, before Dacey powered his way through to round off the half. Shingler's conversion failed to find the target. 

It was the turn of the visitors to survive a 10 minute onslaught when they lost Iain Henderson, shown a yellow for a high tackle. Cardiff thought they'd capitalised immediately when Lloyd Williams crossed, but the TMO ruined the celebrations after a knock-on was shown. 

And when Ulster again took a man advantage, the points were sealed. Cardiff found themselves a man short for the second time as Luke Marshall was issued with a yellow, allowing Ulster to seize back control and grab try number four. 

Tommy Bowe went close after possession was snatched in midfield, but Henry had the final touch after going over in the corner and claiming the bonus point. The hosts didn't roll over, with their second try coming moments after Ulster's fourth. 

Halaholo was on the end of Nicky Robinson's well fed pass, who in turn added the two to make it 28-15. 

Blues were given real belief with their third try, Cuthbert the next man to benefit from Robinson's work and cross the line. But just as the Cardiff Arms Park started to believe, they were brought back to reality as Ulster finally finished the hosts off.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Dacey, Halaholo, Cuthbert
Cons: Robinson 2
Pen: Shingler
Yellow Card: Scully

For Ulster:
Piutau, McCloskey, McCall, Henry, Ludik
Cons: Pienaar 5
Yellow Card: Marshall, Henderson

Cardiff Blues: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c) 
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Nicky Robinson, 23 Matthew Morgan

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Brett Herron, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall 
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Louis Ludik, 23 Darren Cave

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Aled Evans (Wales)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)