Tom Stewart and Rob Baloucoune grab Andy Farrell's attention as Ulster beat Bulls 2 months ago

Tom Stewart and Rob Baloucoune grab Andy Farrell's attention as Ulster beat Bulls

Ulster remain in the hunt for a top-two finish that should make the URC knock-out stages an easier prospect.

Tom Stewart was the hat-trick hero, scoring his 11th, 12th and 13th tries of a remarkable breakthrough season - writes Glenn Kelly - as Ulster won out an old fashioned slugfest 32-23 against the Bulls, at Kingspan Stadium.


Both sides started the game still in the hunt for a home quarter-final in the play-offs, with the Bulls most vulnerable to missing out with defeat.

Ulster fans only had to wait until the third minute for their sides - and the games - opening try. Forward pressure in the middle of the pitch allowing Ulster to spread the ball right. Michael Lowry sucked in the Bulls winger and released comeback man Baloucoune who scampered home in the corner to the delight of the Kingspan faithful.

The Bulls replied with intent, and following a Chris Smith penalty, Kurt-Lee Arendse began to make his presence known. First, with a searing break through the Ulster
midfield and then in the 19th minute he got on the score-sheet. Canan Moodie made a break from deep inside his own half, chipping over a flat Ulster defensive line before
regathering and offloading inside to the supporting rocket-man Arendse who scampered home beyond the flailing Ulster defence.


Ulster hit back seven minutes later. A sustained assault on the Bulls goal-line eventually paid dividends. When the visiting pack could no longer sustain their efforts, the impressive Tom Stewart forced his way over in the corner, with Doak converting.

With neither side being able to maintain dominance, the topsy-turvy scoring continued. The Bulls were happy to play Ulster at their own game, heaving towards the home sides until it began to creak and eventually had to give way to a sniping effort from the impressive Burger.

Ulster wasted a good chance to respond and some sloppiness in defence allowed Smith to kick another three points to give the Bulls a 20-12 half-time lead.


Tom Stewart Nick Timoney of Ulster is tackled by Marco van Staden of Vodacom Bulls, at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Tom Stewart finishes job he started

The second half exploded into the action just as the first had begun. Ulster leapt straight into action and when No.8 Elrigh Louw saw yellow for the Bulls for collapsing a maul, Tom Stewart drove over from a resulting maul to grab his second try of the night on 43 minutes.


The visitors struggled somewhat being a man down particularly in the pack where Ulster sensed a weakness. A number of Ulster phases close to the Bulls posts led to that man Stewart grabbing his hat-trick try of the evening in the 54th minute, bundling over from close range, ensuring Ulster of the bonus point.

Smith and Doak exchanged penalties and substitute former Springbok Bismarck Du Plessis saw yellow for a reckless charge to the side of a maul that could have been red.

As valiantly as the South Africans battled they could not break a resolute Ulster defence. John Cooney completed the night’s work with an 80th minute penalty, but it will surely be the red-capped Ulster hooker Stewart who steals the headlines, and rightly so.

Ulster's march towards a home play-off is almost in the bag whilst for the Bulls they face a sweat on their return to familiar surroundings for a play-off spot likely away from South Africa.

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