Friday night saw me make my annual trip to Ravenhill for a European group game, as Ulster kicked-off their campaign against Saracens, a week later than expected, with their opening game away to Oyonnax being postponed last week due to the terror attacks in France.
Ulster fans arrived hoping their side would warm them up inside, with rain, rain and more rain greeting supporters as they entered the ground.
Within the opening five minutes, the game had it’s first talking point, when Michael Rhodes was yellow carded for a wild tackle. There were many who thought it should have been a straight red.
Ruan Pienaar was unable to convert the resulting penalty. Within minutes, Owen Farrell followed suit by missing a penalty.
Ulster would soon find themselves going into a 9-0 lead courtesy of Paddy Jackson, who scored two drop goals and a penalty. Everything seemed well with the world, as Ulster were two tries ahead.
Saracens got one of those tries when Chris Wyles ran through. Owen Farrell’s rotten evening continued when he missed the conversion.
Ulster’s convincing lead had evaporated, the game was up for grabs, as Ulster led 9-5 at the break.
The start to the second-half was tense, as Ulster were forced to defend. A lot.
I was at the end Ulster were attacking. I say “were”, the correct term should probably be “Supposed to be”, as they simply couldn’t get out of their own half.
They were stuck in their half so much, people around me were watching the game on the giant screen beside them instead of watching the game live in order to get a better view.
A try for Saracens was inevitible, and so it proved when David Goode ran through. Owen Farrell had an upturn in fortune when he scored the conversion.
Saracens started to run away with it, and another try making it 17-9. Ulster now needed a converted try to take the lead. They didn’t look like getting one of those, never mind both. The crowd knew it, and the atmosphere became subdued as a result.
Owen Farrell made up for his poor kicking earlier on by making it 20-9, the gap was now getting bigger and bigger for Saracens, before another try was converted to make it 27-9.
22 points without reply in the second-half for Saracens, it was comprehensive. Ulster fans felt as miserable as the weather, as their side have a lot of ground to make up if they want to join the round ball Ulstermen in planning trips to France next Summer.