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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Scrappy victory for Ulster
Ireland and Ulster fly-half David Humphreys
David Humphreys scored 14 points for Ulster
Ebbw Vale 0-19 Ulster

An injury-time try by full-back Paddy Wallace failed to put any gloss on a hard-earned Ulster victory over Ebbw Vale at Eugene Cross Park on Friday night.

Wallace's touchdown was the only try of a game that featured quite a physical, but fair, battle between both packs.

Ulster might have been expected to get their Celtic League campaign off to an encouraging start, but the proud Steelmen made them fight all the way.

Chances missed

With little sign of a try in the game, it was Ireland fly-half David Humphreys who managed to trouble the scoreboard with four penalties in normal time.

Indeed it was his intervention three minutes into injury time that finally saw the only try of the game.

The Steelmen had their chances, but scrum-half Bryan Shelbourne had obviously left his kicking boots in the changing room.

Twice he failed to find the target from in front of the posts and a chance for Ebbw Vale to further force the issue evaporated.

Shelbourne's first miss was in the opening minutes when Ebbw Vale started with venom straight from the kick-off.

The game was still a stalemate in the opening quarter with neither team getting even close to crossing the opposition lines.

Conditions, though, were far from perfect for running rugby with heavy rain making conditions very difficult.

It was Humphreys who finally got Ulster away in the 29th minute with an angled penalty.

That came about after a kick-and-chase from a Neil Doak kick and Ebbw Vale number 8 Will Thomas sin-binned for taking out the lively Sheldon Coulter.

Humphreys doubled Ulster's lead with a second penalty two minutes later just before they lost Lions lock Jeremy Davidson with a leg injury.

  Match details:
Ebbw Vale 0
Ulster (6) 19
Tries: Wallace
Cons: Humphreys
Pens: Humphreys (4)

The Steelmen, who had more than their fair share of problems off and on the field, continued to play with a lot of vigour and pride against a nervous-looking Ulster side.

However, it was Humphreys who pushed Ulster further ahead with his third penalty after 57 minutes.

First involvement

But once again Shelbourne failed to take advantage from another penalty as he dragged a kick wide from in front of the posts in the 67th minute.

Former Ulster schoolboy star Mark Meenan came on as a second-half substitute for the Steelmen.

Meenan's first involvement was to miss a long-range penalty, and then watch Humphreys show him how it was done to do it with his fourth penalty in the 73rd minute.

Then came that long-awaited try with Humphreys making a scything break before the ball was recycled through Doak and Jonny Bell who put Wallace in.

A winning start for Ulster, but with Humphreys and Gary Longwell missing due to international duty, Ulster could find life difficult against Edinburgh.

Ebbw Vale: R Davies; R Shorney, M Ridley, P Matthews, N Wakeley; S Mitchell, B Shelbourne; A Black (capt), J Evans, D Jones, O Booyse, N Edwards, K Tuipolotu, T Morris, W Thomas.
Reps: P Jones for D Jones (71), A Bevan for Shelbourne (77), P Sidoli for Booyse (62), R Williams for Tuipolotu (62), M Rowlands, M Meenan for Mitchell (62), C Bevan for Evans (40).

Ulster: P Wallace; S Coulter; R Constable, J Bell, T Howe; D Humphreys, N Doak; R Kempson, M Sexton, S Best, G Longwell, J Davidson, A Ward, capt, W Brosnihan, T McWhirter.
Reps: J Fitzpatrick for Best (67), P Shields, N McMillan, M Blair for Davidson (30), K Campbell, A Larkin, B Cunningham.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England).

Ireland and Ulster fly-half David Humphreys
''Ebbw Vale are a well-organised side''

The final



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