Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

URC result: Lions run out of steam as Ulster clinch win

After a strong first half performance the Lions led 14-7 at the break, but a poor start to the second half put Ulster into the lead with them going on to win.

The Lions put up a good fight but in the end ran out of steam as Ulster battled their way back from a halftime deficit to clinch a 24-17 win in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Friday night.

It was always going to be a tall ask for the Lions to upset their in-form hosts in Ireland and so it proved as despite a top first half that saw them leading 14-7, they had a dreadful start to the second half that gave Ulster a lead they would not relinquish over the rest of the match.

ALSO READ: Lions target the basics to give them the leg up against Ulster

The Lions now head back home from their European tour with just one win from three games, and one win from four overall in the competition and they will be desperate to pick up some good wins on home soil.

Fantastic first half

It was a fantastic first half performance from the Lions as they got off to a stunning start with right wing Richard Kriel going over for the opening try of the match, converted by flyhalf Sanele Nohamba for a 7-0 lead after 10 minutes.

The home side then took control of the game, dominating possession and territory and putting the Lions under tremendous pressure, but the visitors defence held firm.

Finally in the 28th minute Ulster managed to draw the scores level, attacking from a lineout in the Lions 22m, going through a few phases before they spread the ball for outside centre James Hume to loop around and burst over to score, with scrumhalf Nathan Doak adding the extras.

The Lions thought they had hit back immediately after an Ulster mistake in their own half saw outside centre Henco van Wyk slide over to dot down, but the try was chalked off for a knock on in the build-up.

The visitors were not to be denied though as in the 34th minute a superb break from Van Wyk saw the Lions get deep into the Ulster 22m, with the recycled ball going through a few phases before flank Hanru Sirgel dived over to score, with Nohamba’s extras putting them up 14-7 at the break.

Poor start to second

It was a poor start to the second half for the Lions that then set them back as they were punished for not executing their exits after kick-offs.

Straight from the restart the Lions missed the ball, with it bouncing dangerously into their 22m where Nohamba had to hack clear, giving Ulster a lineout in the red zone.

From the lineout they attacked, eventually spreading the ball to left wing Jacob Stockdale to go over in the left hand corner for a converted try that levelled the scores.

Ulster couldn’t secure the Lions kick-off, leading to a penalty that Nohamba popped over to edge the Lions back ahead.

Only for the Lions to again not exit from Ulster’s kick-off, giving a penalty that they kicked to the corner, secured at the lineout and rumbled over with a good maul for hooker Rob Herring to score, as Doak put them 21-17 up with the conversion after 47 minutes.

After the breathless half to the second half things calmed down a bit and it took until the 62nd minute for the scoreboard to be threatened as a penalty on the Ulster 10m saw Nohamba take a shot, but it was just outside his range with the ball dropping short.

This allowed Ulster to go further ahead in the 68th minute, as replacement scrumhalf John Cooney  slotted a penalty from just outside the Lions 22m giving them a 24-17 lead.

The Lions had a final chance to draw themselves level in the dying moments of the game, but on attack in the Ulster 22m in the final minute they lost the ball forward, allowing the hosts to eat up the last few second and clear to win.


Ulster: Tries – James Hume, Jacob Stockdale, Rob Herring; Conversions – Nathan Doak (3); Penalty – John Cooney

Lions: Tries – Richard Kriel, Hanru Sirgel; Conversions – Sanele Nohamba (2); Penalty – Nohamba

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits