Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium
A wet night in Belfast. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
ULSTER’S RISING STARS battled through horrendous weather conditions in Belfast to record a bruising 21-5 win over Uruguay in a friendly at Kingspan Stadium.
Six of Ulster’s starting line-up made their senior debuts in the international friendly as the province’s next generation showed what they can do against a side that were stepping up their preparations for next year’s World Cup.
The second game on Uruguay’s mini-European tour that also saw them face Cardiff Blues in midweek, their hosts were too good for them on the night as Ulster took advantage of some weak maul defence for a hat-trick of scores that saw them over the line.
Because of the driving rain and blustery wind, it made premium scoring chances hard to come by, and in the end it was the Irish province who were the more clinical in the red zone that got them the win.
Marcus Rea crosses for his try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
It took Ulster just 12 minutes to take the lead as they took advantage for the first time of that suspect suspect maul defence to pilot one over from five metres out, captain for the night Adam McBurney the one to touch down.
Four minutes later and the hosts did exactly the same thing for the exact same result. McBurney again at the back of a maul that met very little Uruguayan resistance and the hooker got over the line for his, and Ulster’s, second try.
The conditions were making it tough for either side to get any kind of momentum going, and Uruguay’s indiscipline was harming their ability to make it a contest despite edging both the territory and possession stats.
Indeed, the closest they came to responding was off a counter-attack from a kick that was charged down, winger Gaston Mieres taking advantage of some sliding defenders to make it up to the five metre line, and when Ulster slowed the ball down at the ensuing ruck, McBurney was shown a yellow card.
Marcus Rea, Alex Thompson and Greg Jones on wet Kingspan night. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
But that wouldn’t cost Ulster as their visitors continued to struggle to make any kind of inroads into the province’s defence, and by the time McBurney returned to the field the Uruguayans still hadn’t made a dent on the scoreboard.
Instead it would be down to Ulster to grab the next try as Uruguay lock Ignacio Dotti saw yellow for repeated infringements, and when they set up another maul just short of the line, Academy flanker Marcus Rea went quickly over the back and powered his way over.
Uruguay did get a late consolation score, and it was by far the best score of the night as replacement hooker Manuel Ardao went for the corner and managed to get away an outrageous offload back inside to Alejandro Nieto, and the No.8 in turn gave an exceptional no-look pass that allowed Mieres to go over in the corner.
The visitors did show some good signs towards the end with the result now beyond them, but Ulster were determined not to let them in for another score, and some impressive defence kept them at bay to ensure the score would stay as it was at full-time.
Replacements: Zack McCall, Corrie Barrett, Peter Cooper, JJ McKee, David McCann, Ben McCaughey, Graham Curtis, Michael Stronge, Claytan Milligan.
URUGUAY: Rodrigo Silva; Leandro Leivas, Juan Manuel Cat, Andres Vilaseca, Gaston Mieres; Felipe Berchesi, Santiago Arata; (1-8) Mateo Sanguinetti, German Kessler, Juan Pedro Rombys; Ignacio Dotti, Diego Magno; Juan Manuel Gaminara, Juan Diego Ormaechea, Alejandro Nieto.
Replacements: Manuel Ardao, Edgardo Benitez, Juan Echeverria, Manuel Leindekar, Manuel Diana, Leandro Segredo, Tomas Inciarte, Agustin Della Corte, Federico Favaro.