Pro14: Ulster secure 23-14 home win over Cardiff Blues in Belfast
|Pro14: Ulster v Cardiff Blues|
|Ulster (17) 23|
|Tries: Marshall, Burns Cons: Cooney 2 Pens: Cooney 3|
|Cardiff Blues (0) 14|
|Tries: Summerhill, Boyde Cons: Evans 2|
Ulster scored two tries on their way to a 23-14 Pro14 win over Cardiff Blues.
The hosts controlled the first half, taking a 17-0 lead into the break thanks to converted tries from Luke Marshall and Billy Burns.
Blues fought back after the interval with a try from winger Aled Summerhill before flanker Will Boyde rushed in for a second as Cardiff trailed 20-14.
Man-of-the-match Cooney pushed Ulster out of reach with a penalty to take his tally with the boot to 13 points.
Ulster had made a perfect start to the game when Sean Reidy charged down a loose kick, gathered the ball himself and released the speedy Marshall for an early try.
A Cooney penalty gave Ulster a 10-point lead before Burns spotted a gap in the Blues 22 and darted in.
Try-scorer Marshall received a yellow card just before the break for deliberately falling on the wrong side of the ruck but the Blues couldn't capitalise, knocking the ball on deep in Ulster territory.
Blues were more clinical in the second half, with Sumerhill making the most of the one-man advantage to score the Blues' first try.
The try went to the TMO with a pass by Matthew Morgan in the lead-up under scrutiny, but it stood, giving the Blues a pathway into the game.
The visitors began to put more pressure on Ulster in an increasingly scrappy game.
The Blues won a series of penalties, before quick hands out wide put flanker Boyde in for a try.
Cooney's penalty relieved pressure on the hosts, putting Ulster nine points ahead.
In the final minute Blues won a penalty and Jarrod Evans opted for the posts, hoping to secure a losing bonus-point. He missed the kick and Blues went home empty-handed.
Ulster sit in third place in Conference A going into their next match against Zebre. The Blues are fifth in Conference B ahead of their fixture with leaders Munster.
Ulster backs coach Dwayne Peel told BBC Sport:
"We started quite well, built up a lead and then the game didn't kick on for us.
"Blues came after us in the first 20 minutes of the second half, we didn't execute a few things, and put ourselves under a bit of pressure.
"There are certain areas of the game we'll have to learn from, it was a dogged performance from us but the win and the four points are important.
"We knew Jarrod Evans at 10 is a quality player, we gave him a bit of time and he started to run the game. But we didn't help ourselves, trying to play out of our own half in difficult conditions, and there's plenty to work on."
Cardiff Blues coach John Mulvihill told BBC Sport:
"It's a very disappointed changing room, we didn't give ourselves a chance in the first half with basic errors and a few soft tries.
"Second half I thought we were pretty good, we held the ball really well with a game plan to hold the ball longer in the right areas and put the pressure on Ulster and on the referee to make decisions.
"Two tries each, our set-piece was more than a match for Ulster, but if you give teams like Glasgow and Ulster early points, it's tough to play a chasing game."
Ulster: Addison; Gilroy, Marshall, Hume, Ludik; Burns (capt), Cooney; McGrath, Andrew, O'Toole, O'Connor, Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Reidy, Coetzee
Replacements: McBurney, O'Sullivan, Kane, Carter, Timoney, Shanahan, Johnston, Faddes.
Cardiff Blues: Morgan; Harries, Smith, Halaholo, Summerhill; Evans, L Williams; Thyer, Belcher, Andrews, Turnbull, Thornton, Boyde, Robinson, N Williams (capt).
Replacements: Dacey, Domachowski, Assiratti, Davies, Lewis-Hughes, Jones, Tovey, Millard.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Assistants: Sean Gallagher (IRFU); Dave Sutherland (SRU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)