After a near two and a half year absence, I made a return to Ravenhill for a match. Not all of it has been down to Covid.
Back in Pre Covid Times, I would have only gone to a European Group Match a season.
Although, I would generally be lucky with competitions (there are so many, it’s hard not to win at least once a season) and get to see a second match a season.
I didn’t foresee when I left Ravenhill in December 2019 of what would happen next in the world.
When I usually pay into Ravenhill, i’m usually on one of the two terraces. Knowing how squeezed in people are there, I decided to give them a miss because of you know what, but I knew that I would come back again some day.
Getting in for free certainly helps make that decision for you. This ticket coming via a competition on Instgram.
The previous times I have won tickets, they have been in one of the stands, so it was a bit of a shock when I was scanning in that I realised they were terracing.
Behind the goal at the Memorial End, since you ask.
As this wasn’t really a big match (ok, rankings for Play-Offs, but nothing would be decided. It was essentially fixture fulfilment before the main event) there wasn’t as big a crowd as expected.
The Terracing wasn’t exactly spacious, but I could have stretched out at least one arm if I wanted to
At least I was getting to see Ulster this month. I found myself being frustrated that they were playing Edinburgh away the week before I went to Edinburgh.
I know my trip to Edinburgh wasn’t specifically for Rugby (I did sneak in a football match though), but it would have been nice to take one in.
As i took my place behind the goal, the ground was bathed in sunshine. And rain. This is Belfast, after all.
The game began with a lot of decent build-up play from both teams but neither were able to make that breakthrough and get a try.
I was beginning to wonder if we were going to get any points on the board, as it remained 0-0 after 15 minutes. Even a drop goal seemed too much to ask.
Thankfully, there wasn’t long to wait for some points on the board, and it came for Ulster in the form of a John Cooney penalty to make it 3-0.
By now, the rain had stopped and the Sharks were struggling in the dry weather and not really offering much of a bite.
A converted try saw Ulster go in at half-time 10-0 up in a half that was mostly even.
Another converted try early in the second-half, by now Ulster were attacking the end where I was stood, made it 17-0, and this was looking like a coast to victory.
A converted try for Sharks ruined Ulster’s clean sheet, but an instant response gave them a convincing 24-7 lead.
That lead would be whittled down to 24-21 after two converted tries, and things started to get a little nervous.
Thankfully for Ulster, the clock had passed 80 minutes, and all they had to do was get the ball and boot it out.
Getting the ball was the problem, as Sharks looked to get that one opportunity for a try to win, or even a drop goal for a draw.
They couldn’t. Ulster were able to get the ball, boot it out and get the win that was a lot more nervous than it should have been.
It meant Ulster signed off for the regular season with a win, but the season isn’t over.
Even though Ulster finished 3rd, they can still win the title, as the Top 8 go into a Play-Off.
Ulster will face Munster in a Quarter-Final in early June.
They won that match, but eventually lost their Semi-Final to Stormers.