Guinness PRO12: Three talking points as Ulster win ugly

Ruan Pienaar scores 15 points as 13-man Ulster hold on for a 20-17 win to leave the Scottish capital with a fortunate victory

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KICKING KING: Ruan Pienaar scored 15 points for Ulster in Edinburgh Photo by Jason O'Callaghan

A contrasting tale of two kickers

It was a night to forget for Scotland stand-off Tom Heathcote as he finished the night with a 40 per cent success rate off the tee. He may have landed 12 points, but he spurned a further 17 points from six missed kicks, four of which Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons insisted should have landed despite the distance they were kicked from. With Scotland waiting to discover the outcome of an appeal to Finn Russell’s ban ahead of their clash with Italy at BT Murrayfield next weekend and probably needing to draft in an inexperienced replacement, Heathcote did himself no favours with an out of sorts performance as he continues his comeback from injury. By contrast, South Africa scrum-half Ruan Pienaar showed his class to score 15 points, 10 of which came from the tee. Neither player were particularly threatening kicking from hand when the sides traded high balls or went in search of territory, but Pienaar offered more and certainly came out on top.

Marauding Cochrane shines for Gunners

You could be forgiven for thinking that Neil Cochrane is a flanker after a magnificent first-half performance that brought a number of turnovers at the breakdown and some good bursts up field, including in the first phase of the build-up to the Gunners’ only try of the game. The hooker also battled through a rib injury in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, before going off as a precaution. With Ross Ford on international duty, Cochrane looked the part in his stead. Awarded man of the match for his 50-minute performance, his first-half efforts laid the platform for Edinburgh to win as they built up a 14-10 lead, but he was powerless to help in the second half as Ulster played several get out of jail free cards and his replacement Rory Sutherland, who is a former flanker, struggled to get his arrows straight at two crucial lineouts in Ulster’s half as they went in search of a winning score.

Ulster indiscipline almost proves costly

Edinburgh were given just one try-scoring opportunity early in the first half, which they took through Phil Burleigh in the corner after some strong running from Cochrane, but they were allowed to build a 14-10 half-time lead as the Irish club failed to flood the breakdown, giving Heathcote the chance to take a number of shots at goal. Ulster head coach Neil Doak would have been incensed at the number of penalties conceded to keep allowing their hosts back into the game. Worse was to come mid-way through the second half when centre Stuart McCloskey was red carded for his part in tipping Hamish Watson above the horizontal as Michael Allen tried to anchor; an unnecessary, but dangerous tackle. Welsh referee Leighton Hodges had no hesitation after viewing the replay, though some will argue McCloskey was unlucky not to receive a yellow. Nick Williams, who had already given away a number of penalties, was lucky not to see yellow for a chop tackle without arms, which was more akin to some of the ridiculous head-first tackles seen in the NFL. He was quickly replaced with Ulster needing to fill the gap in midfield, but lock Franco van der Merwe spent the last eight minutes of the game in the sin bin for some interference in the air at the lineout. With handling errors still prevalent, Ulster had to send Luke Marshall into the back row for a seven-man scrum with replacement wing Peter Nelson joining him in the back row for the final play as the Irishmen held up long enough to allow Pienaar to hoof the ball into the upper tier of the East Stand.

MORE: Guinness PRO12: Ulster head coach Neil Doak believes this players showed character after Edinburgh escape

MORE: Guinness PRO12: Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons frustrated by errors after Ulster defeat

MORE: Six Nations 2015: Scottish Rugby Union to appeal Finn Russell’s ban for dangerous tackle

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