Saturday 24 March 2018

Ulster look forward with Timoney

Ulster’s Nick Timoney
Ulster’s Nick Timoney

It would be just like Ulster to pull off an upset at Harlequins when it is least expected at The Stoop tomorrow afternoon (KO1.0, BTSport 3)

In the week Jordi Murphy has confirmed his intention to move north in the summer, another ex-Blackrock College schoolboy, Nick Timoney, has been rewarded with a monumental moment in his young career.

The number eight has made a strong impression whenever given the opportunity by coach Jono Gibbes.

This is a stage on which he will either blossom or wither on the vine as Chris Robshaw and Mat Luamanu make life uneasy for everyone.

There is the comfort of having Iain Henderson in the back row with the muscular Seán Reidy.

Sadly, Rory Best could not recover from a foot problem, allowing fellow Ireland international Rob Herring a look in at hooker in-between loose-head Callum Black and tight-head Wiehahn Herbst.

The half-backs John Cooney, another of this parish, and Christian Leali'ifano can deliver as long as they are presented with enough workable ball.

The back-five has the talent and know-how to exploit the best defences with Jacob Stockdale and Charles Piutau continuing to come together as a headline double-act in Europe. Quins' Director of Rugby John Kingston will be determined to build on a precious victory over Saracens in The Premiership.

There is something of a buzz about The Stoop as their 18 year-old out-half Marcus Smith has come to the fore.

The diminutive playmaker is about as slight as, and shorter than, Ronan O'Gara.

He has been a real discovery as the second youngest player to start in The Premiership behind George Ford.

However, he will surely become a target to exploit for Stuart McCloskey and the formidable Stockdale, coming in off the wing.

Harlequins: M Brown (capt); C Walker, A Alofa, J Roberts, T Visser; M Smith, D Care; J Marler, E Elia, K Sinckler, G Merrick, C Matthews, R Bothma, C Robshaw, M Luamanu.

Ulster: C Piutau; C Gilroy, T Bowe, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, A O'Connor, K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt), S Reidy, N Timoney.

Verdict: Harlequins.

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