Rugby

World Cup winner Kitshoff touches down to bolster Ulster's front row following battling home win

Ulster's Scott Wilson on a breakaway during his side's URC win over the Lions at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night     Picture: Brian Little
Ulster's Scott Wilson on a breakaway during his side's URC win over the Lions at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night Picture: Brian Little

The same sheeting rain that fell during Ulster’s hard-fought win over the Lions on Friday night greeted new recruit Steven Kitshoff as he flew into George Best Belfast City Airport on Saturday.

The arrival of the World Cup-winning Springboks loosehead prop couldn’t be more timely as, once again, a patched up Ulster front row eked out a home win following the previous week’s victory over Munster at the Kingspan Stadium.

James Hume, Jacob Stockdale and Rob Herring scored tries for Ulster with Nathan Doak converting three and substitute John Cooney adding a late penalty in a game which saw captain Iain Henderson make his first start of the season.

On Friday night, in horrendous conditions, rookie tighthead Scott Wilson spearheaded the Ulster effort, with flanker Dave Ewers picking up the player of the match award.

Dan McFarland has been struggling to plug gaps in his forwards due to injuries and the late reintroduction of World Cup players.

Marty Moore did make a welcome return to the side on Friday night following a long lay off due to a tear of his anterior cruciate but Tom O’Toole will require surgery on a groin problem.

Read more:

  • Jacob Stockdale scores again as Ulster battle past Lions in Belfast
  • Ulster squad named for new season as Kitshoff to join after RWC

McFarland was further buoyed by the debut of flanker Rueben Crothers and the first appearance of another Academy graduate Lorcan McLoughlin.

Whatever about their injury issues in the pack, a victory which temporarily propelled them to the top of the table was pleasing to head coach, even though his team had come agonisingly close to a fourth try which would have banked that bonus point.

“The conditions were horrendous, very cold, really wet. Very difficult to handle in  those kind of conditions,” McFarland said afterwards.

“It’s testament to the fans, how vocal they were and thanks very much to them for coming out.

“Ultimately, we got the win in a difficult situation.

“I’m really proud of the fact that Lorcan [McLoughlin] got his debut and Scottie [Wilson] got his first start.

“Rueben [Crothers] after only playing two minutes in his first game, he managed to get some really good time and it was great to see Marty Moore back, that was excellent.

“Overall – could we have played better? Definitely, but very happy to get the win in those conditions.”

Heavy rain hampered Ulster's efforts on Friday night but head coach Dan McFarland was happy to come away with the win    Picture: Brian Little
Heavy rain hampered Ulster's efforts on Friday night but head coach Dan McFarland was happy to come away with the win Picture: Brian Little

For Moore, it was particularly pleasing to return to a winning Ulster team after almost a year on the sidelines after suffering a knew injury in the New Year's Day clash with Munster.

"It's been a long time coming. So a lot of anxiety and nerves on my part today. It was very good to get out there and get a good stint under the belt and get the result most importantly," he told Ulster Rugby's official X account. 

The arrival of Kitshoff will no doubt bring some experience and physicality to the Ulster front row but it remains to be seen if he will be thrown in for their trip to Glasgow on Saturday.

The Warriors cruised the a 26-12 bonus-point win over Zebre at Scotstoun on Sunday.