Chris Henry returns as Ulster hold off Cardiff to stay second in Pro12

Ulster 36Cardiff Blues 17

ULSTER WITHSTOOD A second-half comeback by Cardiff Blues in the Guinness Pro12 as Chris Henry made his first appearance since suffering a mini-stroke in November.

The flanker’s introduction, shortly before the hour mark, capped off an evening which saw the hosts run-in four tries to move within two points of leaders Glasgow, who drew with Leinster in Dublin.

Henry, who underwent heart surgery, was a surprise inclusion among the replacements with the Irish international not expected to make his return until next month.

The 30-year-old watched on as Craig Gilroy set the hosts on their way with a fifth minute try after Paddy Jackson created the opening. Louis Ludik converted Ulster’s dominance with another score to give Ulster a 21-0 lead at the interval.

However, the half was marred by a serious injury to Stuart Olding. The centre was only making his return from an elbow injury but appeared to twist his knee in the build-up to Gilroy’s try.

He was stretchered off the field.

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The Blues came out for the second 40 re-energised and cut the deficit through tries from Tom Isaacs and Alex Cuthbert and as the momentum swung in favour of the Welsh side, Henry’s introduction rallied Neil Doak’s charges and the crowd.

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Ruan Pienaar slotted over a penalty to give Ulster breathing space before Ludik scored his second of the night after an exquisite cross-field kick by Ian Humphreys and then the bonus point was secured through Paul Marshall.

Ulster: Ludik, Gilroy, D. Cave, Olding, Allen, P. Jackson, Pienaar, Black, Herring, Herbst, Tuohy, van der Merwe, Henderson, C. Ross, Williams.

Replacements: J. Andrew, Warwick, B. Ross, Diack, Henry, P. Marshall, Humphreys, Scholes.

Cardiff Blues: Patchell, Cuthbert, Allen, G. Evans, Gonzalez-Amorosino, Anscombe, L. Williams, Hobbs, Rees, A. Jones, Hoeata, Reed, Turnbull, E. Jenkins, Navidi.

Replacements: Dacey, Filise, Andrews, Cook, Vosawai, Knoyle, G. Davies, Isaacs.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).


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