Rugby Union: Ulster's barrage tests tourists

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Ulster . . . .11

Australia. . .35

SO HIGH are our expectations of the world champions, not to mention their own, that a discernible air of disappointment hung over Ravenhill yesterday. Though winning, the Wallabies can play much better than this and, come next Saturday's Test against Ireland, most assuredly will.

Against Ulster, there was little of the expansive rugby which sets them apart. Even David Campese's box of tricks was only opened once, a deft chip, catch and pass constituting the match's highlight.

Munster having shown the way, Ulster hit Australia with a predictable early barrage of high balls after electing to play with the wind and a glaring sun behind them.

Fly-half Peter Russell's sixth up-and-under of the first 16 minutes saw Marty Roebuck fumble and Mark McCall kicked a fine drop goal from third-phase ball.

The Wallabies bickered with referee Ray Megson (who, ironically, controlled their 15-13 defeat here eight years ago), and, much to the amusement of 20,000 Ulstermen, Campese's first two contributions were both knock-ons.

Yet the Wallabies always looked more dangerous and two clinical tries earned them a decisive 14-3 interval lead. In the 28th minute, John Eales took Willie Ofahengaue's pass to crash over and in injury time the latter barged up the middle to set up a try for the supporting Tim Gavin.

Roebuck converted both, but Russell then made it 14-6 with a short-range penalty. It was 25 minutes after the break before Australia finally pulled clear, Gavin going over from a five-metre scrum.

Their bigger, heavier pack now winning enough primary ball to lumber forward steadily, Australia concocted another unspectacular try three minutes later. Eales gathered two-handed to launch another rolling maul and tight-head Ewen McKenzie plunged over the line. Roebuck landed his fourth conversion.

Ulster stormed back, running a succession of penalties inside Australian territory. Quick second-phase ball and quick handling along the line saw Campese deny the veteran Keith Crossan but Brian Robinson dived over for a try to raise the biggest cheer of the day. Australia duly responded and Jason Little broke Russell's tackle for a try which Roebuck converted with the last kick of the game.

ULSTER: C Wilkinson (Malone); O Carey (Dungannon), M Field (Malone), M McCall (Bangor), K Crossan (Instonians); P Russell (Instonians), A Blair (Dungannon); D Elliott (Bangor), S Smith (Ballymena), P Millar (Ballymena), P Johns (Dungannon), D Tweed (Ballymena), S McKinty (Bangor), B Robinson (Ballymena), G Hamilton (Ballymena, capt). Replacement: G Bell (Instonians) for Millar (44 min).

AUSTRALIA: M Roebuck ; D Campese (both NSW), J Little, T Horan, P Carozza; M Lynagh (capt), P Slattery; C Lillicrap (all Queensland), P Kearns, E McKenzie (both NSW), O McCall, J Eales (both Queensland), W Ofahengaue, T Gavin (both NSW), D Wilson (Queensland).

Referee: R Megson (Scotland).

Scores: McCall (drop goal, 17 min) 3-0, Eales/Roebuck (try/conv, 28 min) 3-7, Gavin/Roebuck (try/conv, 40 min) 3-14, Russell (pen, 44 min) 6-14, Gavin/Roebuck (try/conv, 65 min) 6-21, McKenzie/Roebuck (try/conv, 68 min) 6-28, Robinson (try, 75 min) 11-28, Little/Roebuck (try/conv, 80 min) 11-35.