Ulster ease past Northampton with bonus-point win at the Gardens

Jared PayneUlster remained undefeated this season with a convincing 25-6 bonus-point win at Northampton tonight.
But more important than the win, their domination and the way they controlled the game makes them more than ever one of the favourites to lift the Heineken Cup trophy in May.
They now count 14 points from their first three games and are six points clear of Castres who won in Glasgow tonight.
Their defence was outstanding all game and they pounced on any given opportunity to score and take the game out of reach of a poor Northampton side.
As a result the Saints’ hopes of qualification are hanging by a thread after their second defeat of the competition and they will have to win their remaining three games to have any chance of finishing one of the best second placed teams.
They had no answer to Ulster’s well-organised defence for most of the game and when they did manage to put the Irish on the back foot with their big runners, they weren’t clinical enough to score.
Ireland international Andrew Trimble put the Ulstermen in front with a try inside the first ten minutes when he collected a perfectly weighted kick from Paddy Jackson.
Ryan Lamb and Jackson exchanged a penalty each but on their second meaningful visit inside the Saints’ 22, Ulster showed their class to draw the defence in and sent Tommy Bowe over with simple hands once the overlap was created.
Northampton managed to reduced the score on the last play of the half with a Lamb’s penalty to trail 13-6 at the break.
Ulster’s struck again soon after the restart when Jared Payne collected a kick inside his own 22 to start a counter attack.
A couple of phases and 80 metres later, Payne was in to take the game away after Jackson’s conversion.
Northampton had to react and they tried but they couldn’t find a gap in the solid Ulster’s defence and on the last play of the game the Irish made them pay.
They made ground through the middle before Payne found lock Dan Tuohy on the right wing to seal the win and secure the all-important try bonus-point.
For Northampton
Penalties: Lamb 2
For Ulster
Tries: Trimble, Bowe, Payne, Tuohy
Conversions: Jackson
Penalties: Jackson
Sin bin: Henderson
Northampton: Foden; K. Pisi, G. Pisi, Waldouck, Elliott; Lamb, Roberts; Tonga’uiha, Hartley, Mujati; Manoa, Lawes; Clark, Wood, Van Velze.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Doran-Jones, Sorenson, Dowson, Dickson, Myler, May.
Ulster: Payne; Bowe, Cave, Wallace, Trimble; Jackson, Pienaar; Court, Best, Afoa; Muller (capt.), Tuohy; Henderson, Henry, Wilson;
Replacements: Brady, Black, Lutton, Diack, Williams, P. Marshall, L. Marshall, Gilroy.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Attendance: 13,475
Star man: Jared Payne – Ulster
NICK VERDIER
Read the full report and analysis in Sunday’s edition of The Rugby Paper.
Relive all the action from Franklin’s Gardens here.

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