Match Report: Ulster 29-19 Northampton Saints

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Match Report: Ulster 29-19 Northampton Saints

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[tag=image] ... _badge.png[/tag][tag=content]Ulster finished their preparations for the new season with an impressive 29-19 victory over the Northampton Saints in their final preseason friendly at the Kingspan Stadium.

New boy Charles Piutau proved to be everything that he was billed to be, setting up two tries, scoring one and winning the man of the match accolade in his first home appearance.

It started out in not such a positive fashion as another new man, Rodney Ah You, saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on Saints fullback Ben Foden, even though the barnstorming prop looked to have been pushed into Foden's path.

But even with one less man, Ulster looked more dangerous and it was they who got the opening try through the first piece of Piutau magic.

Brett Herron sent a cross field kick over and Piutau rose highest to claim it, offloading to Rob Lyttle who gave it inside to Louis Ludik for the easy try, which Lyttle himself converted.

Northampton were then also reduced to 14 men when new number eight Louis Picamoles was sent to the bin for a swinging arm tackle on Ludik, allowing Lyttle to slot a straightforward penalty before Ulster cut loose.

This time Piutau turned from provider to scorer as the Ulstermen worked their way into the 22 and, when the ball was spun wide by Herron, nobody was going to stop Piutau from crashing over in the corner.

Again Lyttle added the extras, and he did so again when the hosts scored their third try five minutes before the break when captain Rob Herring dotted down from the back of a driving maul that eased over with little resistance.

Remarkably, it could have been even better for Ulster had Ahsee Tuala not tracked Lyttle all the way back to the line after the winger had intercepted the ball on his own line and sprinted 75 metres up the pitch.

After the break the Saints didn't wait around to break their own duck as Alex Waller did well to force his way over in the corner only three minutes after the restart for his side's first score.

Indeed, the second half saw Ulster doing a lot of defending as the Saints began to grow back into the match through their superior bench, but every time they threatened the Ulstermen had the answers.

And when they counter-attacked, they were lethal.

Credit should go to John Andrew for setting Piutau away, but it was the New Zealander's sumptuous offload to Jacob Stockdale that made the try so special, giving the winger an easy stroll through for the five-pointer just before the hour mark.

That probably ended the game as a contest, but it didn't stop the Saints from coming back and they did so just three minutes later when Tom Collins was able to dive over in the corner after the English side had the numbers out wide.

And it only took them another three minutes to pick up their third try of the game, this time through centre Juan Pablo Estelles, who hacked the ball through and beat Stockdale in a foot race to touch down under the sticks.

Ulster still had to do some defending in the latter stages of the game as the Saints pressed for a fourth consolation try, but the hosts' resolve was strong and their defensive line was not to be breached again.

Indeed it was rather fitting that the game ended with Piutau intercepting the ball when the Saints looked most dangerous. So far, he's looking like a pretty good addition.

The scorers

For Ulster
Tries: Ludik, Piutau, Herring, Stockdale
Cons: Lyttle (3)
Pen: Lyttle

For Northampton
Tries: Waller, Collins, Estelles
Cons: Myler, Hanrahan

15. Charles Piutau, 14. Jacob Stockdale, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Robert Lyttle, 10. Brett Herron, 9. Paul Marshall; 1. Andy Warwick, 2. Rob Herring (capt.), 3. Rodney Ah You, 4. Pete Browne, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Clive Ross, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Ross Kane, Alan O'Connor, Conor Joyce, Matthew Rea, Dave Shanahan, Sam Windsor, David Busby, Jonny McPhillips, Mark Best, Kieran Treadwell, Steve Mulholland, Nick Timoney.

15. Ben Foden, 14. Ken Pisi, 13. Luther Burrell, 12. Harry Mallinder, 11. Ahsee Tuala, 10. Stephen Myler, 9. Lee Dickson; 1. Alex Waller, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. Kieran Brookes, 4. Michael Paterson, 5. James Craig, 6. Tom Wood (capt.), 7. Jamie Gibson, 8. Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Campese Ma'afu, Mikey Haywood, Paul Hill, Courtney Lawes, Jordan Onojaife, Reece Marshall, Lewis Ludlam, Sam Dickinson, Nic Groom, JJ Hanrahan, Howard Packman, George Pisi, Juan Pablo Estelles, Tom Collins, George Furbank.[/tag]
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