United Rugby Championship: Ulster edge Stormers to claim second spot after Irish side beat Edinburgh

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The United Rugby Championship top three is locked as Leinster finish the regular season in first place, Ulster in second, and the Stormers in third.

In the early kick-off, the Stormers kept their hopes of finishing second and claiming a home semi-final, if they get that far, by defeating Benetton 38-22 at Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

However, Ulster snatched second place, defeating Edinburgh 28-14 at the Kingspan in Belfast.

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Man of the match, John Cooney, kicked 13 points and scored a try to steer Ulster to victory, with Jacob Stockdale and Nick Timoney crossing the whitewash.

Darcy Graham and WP Nel scored Edinburgh’s tries, with Emiliano Boffelli converting both tries.

The win guarantees the Irish province a home semi-final should they win their URC quarter-final, which will also be in Belfast.

The visitors were brighter from the outset, and after Duan van der Merwe’s touch let him down after hacking on over the Ulster line, Graham scored for Edinburgh after seven minutes when the Scots ran back a dropped high kick by Ulster, Boffelli added the conversion.

Then on 25 minutes, Ulster struck back with a stunning try. From a lineout, the Irish province put the ball through the hands, and after Craig Gilroy had burst through the middle, Stockdale and Rob Baloucoune combined before Baloucoune’s return pass put Stockdale over the line.

Cooney missed the tricky conversion, and Edinburgh still led 7-5 until he bisected the posts with a 37th-minute penalty to put the hosts ahead for the first time.

Cooney then stretched this to 11-7 with the clock in red with another penalty.

The second half was barely a minute old when Cooney intercepted Blair Kinghorn’s pass to run in from just inside his own half. He converted his own score, and Ulster now led 18-7.

That became 25-7 after 65 minutes when Timoney barrelled over from close to the Edinburgh line following a yellow card being shown to Glen Young in the previous phase. Cooney slotted the straightforward conversion to take his points to haul to 15.

Edinburgh’s Charlie Savala then had a score ruled out just before Nel crashed over for a converted try.

However, Cooney closed business for the evening with a 78th-minute penalty.

Stormers down Benetton in Stellenbosch

The reigning URC champions did not hit top gear, but they had more than enough to see off the European Challenge Cup semi-finalists Benetton.

Stormers will be at home in next month’s title play-offs, and they warmed up for that knockout phase by claiming a maximum five points.

Flanker Willie Engelbrecht scored two tries, while there were also touchdowns for wing Angelo Davids, hooker JJ Kotze, full-back Clayton Blommetjies and replacement Marcel Theunissen, with fly-half Manie Libbok kicking four conversions.

Benetton led until just before half-time, and they claimed tries from back-row forwards Alessandro Izekor and Manuel Zuliani, with Tomas Albornoz adding one conversion and a penalty, while they also collected a late penalty try.

But Benetton never seriously threatened to upset the form guide, and they must now regroup before next weekend’s Challenge Cup last-four clash against Toulon in France.

Meanwhile, the Stormers can celebrate winning the South African Shield for a second year in a row and rest up in time for their play-off clash in a fortnight’s time.

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