Pro14: Ulster go top of Conference B with bruising 28-7 win over Southern Kings

Nelson
Peter Nelson was a late addition to the Ulster line-up after Will Addison was ruled out through illness
Pro14: Southern Kings 7-28 Ulster
Southern Kings (0) 7
Try: Willemse Con: Banda
Ulster (9) 28
Tries: Coetzee, Kernohan, Curtis Cons: Burns, Nelson Pens: Cooney 3

Ulster moved top of Pro14 Conference B with a 28-7 victory over an ill-disciplined Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

Marcell Coetzee and Angus Kernohan went over for the visitors after John Cooney kicked them into an early lead.

Hooker Michael Willemse scored the opening try for the Kings, whose repeated infringements at the breakdown frequently halted their momentum.

Angus Curtis added a third try for Ulster in the final minute.

The hosts conceded six penalties in the opening 13 minutes to allow Cooney to move Ulster into an early 9-0 lead.

It was a lead that did not always appear comfortable, but Dan McFarland's side showed impressive resilience in the closing stages of the first half to ensure their opponents did not score before the interval.

Kings their own worst enemy

It was a busy afternoon for Scottish referee Sam Grove-White, who showed the first of three yellow cards after 16 minutes, sending flanker Tienie Burger to the sin-bin for repeatedly going in off his feet.

By the half-hour mark the hosts, who finished bottom of Conference B last season with just one win, had hit double figures in penalties conceded.

Ulster too were struggling to find any sort of rhythm in frantic and disjointed opening exchanges.

Cooney thought he had the opening try when he darted over from close range, only for the score to be disallowed with Alan O'Connor shown a yellow having been judged to have entered a ruck shoulder-first.

The error-strewn contest continued to provide a frustrating spectacle, with Rob Herring sent to the bin in the final act of the half for collapsing a maul.

Ulster's bench comes good

With Will Addison ruled out with illness and Cooney removed from proceedings late in the first half with a head injury, Ulster had to test the depth of their squad.

After Willemse barrelled over, the Kings appeared to have rattled their opponents.

However, Ulster regained their composure impressively, with Coetzee becoming increasingly dominant before restoring his side's two-score advantage from the back of a scrum.

Kernohan and Curtis added late scores as gaps began to appear in the Kings' tired defence.

Ulster now travel to Bloemfontein in preparation for Friday's fixture against Cheetahs.

We are improving - McFarland

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland: "When you are playing in a match that is so stop-start because of the amount of penalties, it is very difficult to get any momentum going.

"In the end we demonstrated that if we keep hold of the ball and add a little bit of a ruthless edge, we will score tries.

"We have to be ruthless in our efficiency at the breakdown but that takes time. I believe we are improving there."

Southern Kings: Botha, Penxe, H Klassen, B Klassen, Basson, Banda, Masimla; Ferreira, Willemse, Pupuma, Oelofse, Astle, De Wit, Burger, Ntsila.

Replacements: A van Rooyen, Vos, Forwood, De Wee, Lerm, R van Rooyen, Du Toit.

Sin-Bin: Burger (16)

Ulster: Nelson, Gilroy, Cave, McCloskey, Speight, Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Herring, O'Toole, O'Connor, Treadwell, Coetzee, Reidy, Timoney.

Replacements: McBurney, O'Sullivan, Herbst, Deysel, Rea, Shanahan, Curtis, Kernohan.

Sin-Bin: O'Connor (23), Herring (40)