Visser scores late try to keep Scottish interest alive

Edinburgh 17 Ulster 13: Refusal to bend the knee helps Edinburgh avoid a disastrous home defeat by a dogged Ulster side
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The Independent Online

At that moment when a team are faced with their greatest fear, that however meaningful their efforts they will still come up short, Edinburgh found something invaluable. It was the spirit that drives you on in the face of the kind of doubt that might otherwise prompt despondency. So despite the aggressive resolve of Ulster's defence, in a game that had been littered with disheartening errors, Edinburgh reached for the victory that means they are still a relevant presence in the Heineken Cup.

There were self-inflicted wounds at times, and a growing sense of anxiety as the second half wore on, but Tim Visser's try, with only 12 minutes left, was met by a cheer so heavy with relief and sheer joy that it seemed like a plaintive cry.

"Ulster make it difficult for you to play, but we kept going," said Edinburgh's head coach, Rob Moffat. "We were the team playing the rugby in the second half."

Edinburgh came into this game having confronted a crisis of self- esteem. They had lost three consecutive fixtures, diminishing their domestic and Heineken Cup hopes. They had to win here, and any wariness would have been enhanced by the late withdrawal of Chris Paterson. The full-back fell victim to a viral infection, robbing Edinburgh of their most potent weapon: his kicking. Yet only two minutes into the game, Phil Godman converted a penalty from six metres inside the Ulster half, showing why his own prowess with the boot is so highly valued at Murrayfield. The fly-half repeated this feat in the 20th minute, but Edinburgh were vulnerable to their own frailties.

Contesting a scrum two metres from their own line, the home side were betrayed by a lack of concentration. When Timoci Nagusa gathered possession, Steve Turnbull, Mark Robertson and Godman all hesitated, allowing the Fijian winger to cut through them as though they were as insignificant as shadows. Ian Humphreys converted the try to take the score to 7-6 to the visitors.

The home side were suddenly overwhelmed by the vigorous hostility of the Ulster forwards. A raggedness entered Edinburgh's play, as though they were disconcerted by the change in circumstances, and after a passage of loose play that would have brought a grimace to Moffat's face, a Humphreys penalty left Edinburgh 10-6 behind.

The half ended with the home side probing Ulster's resolute defence, with Godman's drop-goal attempt being charged down by Willie Faloon. The fly-half then missed his second penalty of the afternoon, allowing Ulster to leave the field with gladdened hearts.

The interval did little to revive Edinburgh's composure, and conceding possession early in the second half led to another penalty that Humphreys comfortably converted from 22 metres.

At 13-6 down, a pattern was now painfully clear; Edinburgh attempted to open into the kind of expansive play that might revive their fortunes and Ulster stood firm, killing the game and forcing their opponents into errors and infringements. Edinburgh conceded another penalty and only Humphreys' waywardness prevented the score from easing beyond the home team.

Perhaps they sensed then that all was not lost, and a stirring move revived their momentum. Twice the ball was ferried cross-field, before the centre Nick De Luca was released. With Visser waiting outside him, he held on to the ball and was stopped just short of the line.

Another Godman penalty acted like a clarion call, and Edinburgh's tenacity was rewarded on another break down the left, De Luca this time opting to pass to Visser on his outside, and the winger scoring a priceless try. Godman missed the conversion, but a penalty in the 80th minute sealed a victory heavy with significance.

Edinburgh S Jones; M Robertson (B Cairns, 58), N De Luca, J Houston, T Visser; P Godman, M Blair (capt; G Laidlaw, 68); K Traynor (A Jacobsen, 58), R Ford, G Cross, S Turnbull (C Hamilton, 42), S MacLeod, A MacDonald, A Hogg (S Newlands, 58), R Grant.

Ulster C Schifcofske; T Nagusa (S Danielli, 62), D Cave, P Wallace (capt), A Trimble; I Humphreys, I Boss (P Marshall, 79); T Court (B Young, 62), A Kyriacou, B Botha, E O'Donoghue, R Caldwell, S Ferris, R Diack, W Faloon.

Referee: D Pearson (England).