Christian Lealiifano made his first start since battling leukaemia in Ulster’s 42-19 victory over Cheetahs in the PRO14.
Having made his comeback as a replacement in the Brumbies’ Super Rugby quarterfinal final defeat to the Hurricanes in July, the 29-year-old was required from the off for the Irish province, who he joined on Aug. 21.
It was a nervy beginning for the 19-capped Australian, with a clearance kick ran back by the Cheetahs for their opening try. But he offered so much at first receiver, and put Ulster on the front foot.
Christian Lealiifano made his Ulster debut as they ran in six tries against the South African side. Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images
From an attacking point of view, he was a multiple threat; brilliant distribution, clever kicking and spreading the ball wide.
Before the break he had Ulster fans drooling over things to come during his short-term stint in Belfast as he received the ball from John Cooney inside the 22, and spotting a gap, he burst through the Cheetahs defence, making a 50 metre break up to the South African side’s 10 metre line. It would have resulted in a try but for a covering tackle.
His first game with Cooney, their partnership is sure to improve with time. Ulster only needed Lealiifano for 52 minutes, but there will be greater challenges ahead and with improved fitness, he is sure to make an impact in the PRO14 and Champions Cup.
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Lealiifano enjoys positive Ulster debut
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