Stewart and Stockdale tries help Ulster to victory over Bulls

Nathan Doak in action for Ulster
Nathan Doak in action for Ulster Nathan Doak in action for Ulster

First-half tries from Tom Stewart and Jacob Stockdale helped Ulster to a hard-fought 26-19 victory over the Bulls yesterday in what was the first game played at the Kingspan Stadium’s new synthetic surface.

Nathan Doak kicked both conversions and added four penalties to claim 16 points as Dan McFarland’s men made it two wins from two games to start the season.

Skipper Alan O’Connor was pleased with with his side’s attiutude on a tricky afternoon.

“We had to grind that one out,” he told BBC Northern Ireland. 

“With the Bulls they are really direct and their set-piece is really good, so it was a great opportunity to get back into the physicality side of things.

“We will take a lot of confidence from that. We will take the good, take the bad and move on to Connacht next week now.”

The South Africans made Ulster battle all the way, and scored tries through Gerhard Steenekamp, Sebastian de Klerk and Elrigh Louw, with two conversions from Johan Goosen.

Eight minutes in, Ulster tapped a penalty near the Bulls’ line, with hooker Stewart taking it himself and burrowing through to score.

Doak added the two extra points and then did the same on the half-hour following Stockdale’s touchdown when the winger dived over in the corner from a Tom O’Toole pass at a time when Ulster were down to 14 men following Will Addison’s yellow card.

Five minutes later, Steenekamp got the Bulls off the mark with a close-in drive, Goosen converted to cut Ulster’s lead to 14-7 with Addison returning just after the visitors’ seven points had been secured.

Then with the clock approaching red, the Bulls burst through the middle and worked in De Klerk clear for a smartly taken try. Goosen was wide from a difficult angle, but Ulster’s half-time lead was trimmed to 14-12.

The home side needed to begin the second half well and did so with Doak landing an early penalty. He then landed his third penalty two minutes after the hour, making it 23-12.

But the Bulls came again and from a scrum, Elrigh Louw smashed over, with the given despite Ulster claiming it was not grounded, with Goosen converting the 68th-minute touchdown.

Ulster responded by winning two quick penalties, the first kicked to the corner which was lost and the second when David McCann earned a jackal off former Ulster favourite Marcell Coetzee.

Doak kicked the three points in the 73rd minute and Ulster had a seven-point lead, which they held on to despite the Bulls laying siege to the home team’s line before McCann won another pivotal turnover to help his side take the four points.

Round two

Benetton 13 Munster 13; Connacht 34

v Glasgow 26; Dragons 9 Cardiff 16; Edinburgh 17 Lions 16; Leinster 34 Sharks 13; Ospreys 34 Zebre 31; Stormers 52 Scarlets 7; Ulster v Bulls (5pm)

Round three

Friday, November 3 (7.35pm) 

Glasgow v Stormers; Ospreys v Sharks

Saturday, November 4 

Zebre v Bulls (1pm); Leinster v Edinburgh (3.05pm); Munster v Dragons (5.05pm); Scarlets v Cardiff (5.15pm); Connacht

v Ulster (7.35pm)

Sunday, November 5 (1.30pm) 

Benetton v Lions