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Ulster were scintillating and also had to dig deep against Scarlets as John Cooney led Dan McFarland’s men to an impressive victory

What a game and what a result for Ulster too. I loved watching it and I think the first 15 minutes or so is possibly the best I’ve seen Ulster attack.

o that’s 10 points from the first two games and with three of their first four at home, this is a great time to put down a marker even with the guys away with Emerging Ireland.

Fair play to Ulster, they have shown a lot of promise and enterprise and to score a hatful of tries over the last two games has been a real pleasure to watch.

That’s all great but they did concede 39 points away from home. Look, they’ll be picking over the bones of their defensive display and more so than all the tries they ran in as that’s inevitably what winning big games is about, being able to shut off threats against the big four or five teams in the league.

From yesterday’s game, it was so good to see John Cooney playing really well and I thought when he missed that penalty towards the end Ulster might have been overhauled, but thankfully it didn’t work out like that, and Ulster got the win.

So fair play to Ulster, they dug deep when they had to get this result over the line even though the two yellow cards shown to the Scarlets had quite an impact.

Anyway, for John to come back and score 30 points was terrific and it was interesting because after the game Scarlets’ coach Dwayne Peel was talking about how their basics just weren’t as good as Ulster’s and he specifically mentioned John Cooney’s box-kicking.

Indeed, his overall kicking game was really on point which relieved the pressure on Ulster so any time Scarlets scored, Ulster were able to clear their lines and then quickly get a foothold back in the game which is something the Scarlets weren’t able to do as effectively.

For John, it was really a masterclass in many ways, and I know he missed one pressure kick, but you could excuse him that as he nailed so many kicks and the rest of his game was right up there.

Overall, there were so many positives but it’s worth talking about Marcus Rea and, of course, Stuart McCloskey.

If you look at Marcus’ performance, he just goes about his work and that vital turnover on his try line, which then led to the Scarlets’ first yellow card a few moments later, that was brilliant work on the ground when he got over the ball and managed a lovely steal.

Stuart showed a real turn of pace a few times in this game, and he absolutely steamrolled Jonathan Davies and I haven’t seen that done before as he just ran over the top of him.

He also threw some lovely passes off his left hand, and he put plenty of width on his game though we all already know what a direct runner he can be.

Luke Marshall is also worth a mention. I know that James Hume (currently out injured) is very much the new kid on the block but when you’ve a backline of Stuart, who is a huge man, Jacob Stockdale who is another huge man and Luke again a big physical presence, you put Robert Baloucoune (who is absent with Emerging Ireland) on the other wing, again he’s big, and it’s a frightening backline Ulster can put out.

All of them can play with such great subtlety too through their off-loading and passes out the back as well as having great physicality.

Hopefully we’ll see all that again and more when Leinster come up on Friday. I can’t wait for that one.

Stephen Ferris is one of Premier Sports’ leading pundits and will be part of the Premier Sports team for its live TV coverage of all 151 games throughout the BKT United Rugby Championship season showing every Ulster game home and away.
Next Friday sees Ulster take on Leinster in a big inter-pro derby at Ravenhill (7.35pm). Tune into Premier Sports for all the live action.
To find out more view www.premiersports.com

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