Report | Ulster 24 Cell C Sharks 21

Report | Ulster 24 Cell C Sharks 21

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Match Reports

Ulster held off a late Cell C Sharks surge to claim victory and a URC home quarter-final in two weeks’ time.

Both sides were keen to put their stamp on the game, putting in thundering hits to set the tone. Ulster had a promising chance in the second minute of the game as they looked to go wide but the ball didn’t make the hands of Robert Baloucoune waiting in the wings and went into touch.

Cell C Sharks soon found themselves deep into Ulster territory, but Duane Vermeulen got over the ball to make the poach and regain possession. The visitors probed again, but the Ulster defence swarmed around them to force the turnover and Billy Burns kicked clear.

Ulster showed real creativity with ball in hand, Stuart McCloskey running some hard lines in midfield to create opportunities. Billy Burns made an accurate cross-field kick to Ethan McIlroy, but the winger was just in touch as he tried to make the offload.

Ulster got onto the board on 16 minutes, when Iain Henderson snaffled up Jaden Hendrikse with the ball to earn the penalty, John Cooney obliging with the three points.

Ulster’s pressure paid off ten minutes later, their back line going quickly through the hands out to Ethan McIlroy, who did fantastically to make the offload inside to Mike Lowry who bundled over for their first try of the game. Cooney landed the extras to put 10 points between the two sides. 

The Sharks’ first opportunity for points came five minutes before half-time, after getting a penalty at the scrum. Curwin Bosch’s effort was off-target.

The men in black tried to test Ulster’s defences again just before the break, but Nick Timoney made a crucial turnover penalty to get out of danger, keeping the Sharks scoreless going into the changing rooms. 

Ulster came firing out of the blocks in the second half, and it only took three minutes for them to strike. Stuart McCloskey went on the charge and fended off two Sharks defenders as he powered through under the posts. John Cooney fired over the two to stretch Ulster’s lead further.

The South African side started to pile the pressure on Ulster, who managed to withstand wave after wave of attack. Eventually, Ulster were penalised for not releasing, and the Sharks opted for the tap-and-go. Replacement prop, Ntuthuko Mchunu crashed over from short range for their first try, and Bosch made the conversion.

The Ulster men responded immediately. Robert Baloucoune made a superb break with John Cooney in support to send James Hume home for Ulster’s third try. Cooney made no mistake with the extras.

The men in black pulled one back with five minutes to go through Marius Louw dotting over and Boeta Chamberlain made the conversion.

The Sharks struck again in the dying minutes as Grant Williams raced down the right wing and Chamberlain converted to bring it to within three points, but Ulster had done enough to hold on for the win.

Full-time score: Ulster 24 Cell C Sharks 21

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Player of the Match


Tries: Mike Lowry, Stuart McCloskey, James Hume

Cons: John Cooney (3)

Pens: John Cooney

Cell C Sharks

Tries: Ntuthuko Mchunu, Marius Louw, Grant Williams

Cons: Curwin Bosch, Boeta Chamberlain (2)



(15-9) Mike Lowry, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O'Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle.

Cell C Sharks

(15-9) Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse;

(1-8) Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi,, Thomas du Toit (C), Ruben van Heerden,Reniel Hugo, Siya Kolisi, Henco Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi.

Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Khutha Mchunu, Hyron Andrews, Jeandre Labuschagne, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Grant Williams, Boeta Chamberlain.


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URC Quarter-Finals

Ulster are now guaranteed a top four finish in the URC standings, and have therefore earned home advantage for the Quarter-Finals, to be played on the weekend of 3-5 June.

Full fixture details will be confirmed following a meeting of the tournament organisers and broadcasters on Monday morning.

For further information, including ticketing on-sale dates, click here.

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