Ulster win as Henry returns

Louis Ludik
Louis Ludik (left) scored twice as Ulster beat the Blues
©Press Association

Ulster marked the return to action of Chris Henry four months after career-threatening health problems with a pulsating 36-17 Guinness PRO12 win over Cardiff Blues at home.

They clinched a bonus-point win to make it nine wins in Belfast this season and stay on course for the play-offs.

Six tries were scored in all, Ulster leading 21-0 only to see Blues fight back to make it 21-17 before late scores from Louis Ludik and Paul Marshall sealed the match.

Ulster started perfectly, winning the ball from their own kick-off and keeping the ball through several phrases until Paddy Jackson - playing for the first time since January - put Craig Gilroy in to score.

Ruan Pienaar converted before the game was held up when Stuart Olding, another player making a return from injury, was stretchered off.

There was an even longer hold-up when Rhys Patchell was also stretchered off and Nick Williams sin-binned for his part in the incident.

Even with 14 men, Ulster were the better side and Pienaar landed a penalty in the 14th minute to extend their lead.

Three minutes later and after more Ulster pressure, Ludik cut in at speed and barged through the Blues defence to score his first try to put Ulster 15-0 ahead, Pienaar missing the conversion.

The South African's second penalty saw Ulster move into an 18-0 lead, which they held onto until half-time despite the Blues missing two good scoring opportunities and the home side again being reduced to 14 men when Franco van der Merwe was shown a yellow card.

Ulster began the second half well and Pienaar's third penalty made it 21-0 before the Blues began to fight back, beginning with a Gareth Anscombe penalty.

After 50 minutes, Tom Isaacs crossed and Anscombe converted to reduce Ulster's lead to 21-10.

After 58 minutes, Henry came onto the field to a rapturous ovation but Cardiff kept forcing Ulster back and Alex Cuthbert dotted down just after the hour.

Anscombe's conversion put the Blues within a try of taking the lead only for Ulster to score next with Pienaar landing his fourth penalty.

That seemed to knock the wind out of the Blues' sails and after Ludik crossed again, Marshall ran through in the closing moments to add the bonus point.