Kiss-less Ulster punish winless Kings
PRO14 REPORT: Craig Gilroy scored a hat-trick as Ulster got off to a fine start under head coach Jono Gibbes with a 59-10 win over Souther Kings.
Referee Joy Neville made PRO14 history on an eventful match in Belfast.
Neville became the league’s first ever female referee but she shares the headlines a rampant Ulster after their nine-try win against the Southern Kings.
Gilroy was clinical and took his tries brilliantly while Stuart McCloskey, Johnny McPhillips, Rob Lyttle (2), Kieran Treadwell and Darren Cave also crossed.
HAT-TRICK 🎩🎩🎩 Tip of the cap to Craig Gilroy who crosses over for a third time for @UlsterRugby this evening!— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 9, 2018
📺 Watch live now 👉 @￼BBCSportNI & @BBCAlba#ULSvKIN#GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/rlqduOCkvs
The Kings remain winless in the PRO14 while Ulster stay third and keep up with top two Glasgow Warriors and Leinster.
Ulster started quickly as Gilroy burst through from just ten metres out after an incisive pass from John Cooney off the back of a rolling maul.
The Kings responded with a Masixole Banda penalty as they gradually steadied the ship following a rapid Ulster start.
But the hosts were slick and impressive in attack and added a second try just before the 20th minute as centre McCloskey powered over.
It was not all smiles for Ulster as key fullback Charles Piutau went off with a rib injury just minutes later, replaced by Louis Ludik.
It did not get any better before the half as flank Sean Reidy also limped out with Chris Henry coming on.
But Gilroy grabbed his second in almost identical fashion to his first as he picked up a perfectly weighted Cooney pass to power through.
The Kings needed a response after the break but Ulster quickly confirmed the bonus point as McPhillips sprinting clear for his first try.
Whoooosh! 💨💨💨 Such speed from the ultra-quick @SouthernKingsSA as they finally cross the whitewash against @UlsterRugby with Harlon Klassen completing arguably the move of the match! #ULSvKIN#GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/fKC9q7LxL0— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 9, 2018
With a spring in their step, Ulster’s confidence grew and Lyttle powered down the left wing to score in the corner.
But the night belonged to Gilroy, who was released by a looping Cooney pass and just held off the desperate Kings defenders to dot down.
Lyttle added his second in style, picking up a loose ball and springing 70 metres to score in the corner – displaying superb pace.
However, it came at a cost as he pulled a hamstring and was forced off injured – Ulster’s third casualty of the night.
The Kings scored the best try as Harlon Klaasen finished off a length-of-the-field move with ten minutes left.
But Ulster had the last laugh with Treadwell powering over and Cave sliding over for their ninth of the match.
Tries: Gilroy 3, McCloskey, McPhillips, Lyttle 2, Treadwell, Cave
Cons: Cooney 7
For Southern Kings:
Con: Janse van Rensburg
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Matthew Dalton, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Louis Ludik.
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Anthonie Volmink, 10 Martin Du Toit, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby De Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Michael Willemse (captain), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Dayan Van der Westhuizen, 19 Jurie Van Vuuren, 20 Eital Bredenkamp, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Barend Janse van Rensburg, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)