Ulster close in on Biarritz

12th Dec 2010, 07:53

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17 points: Ian Humphreys

17 points: Ian Humphreys

Ulster gave their Heineken Cup qualification chances a huge boost on Saturday, beating Bath 22-18 in a physical game at Ravenhill.

Ulster gave their Heineken Cup Pool qualification chances a significant boost on Saturday as they beat Bath 22-18 in a physical game at Ravenhill.

The visitors would be the first to admit that Ulster gifted them a great deal of their points in this topsy-turvy encounter, although messieurs Cuthbert and Moody would retort by saying that they were in the right place at the right time. Twice Ulster made an unforced error and twice they paid for it. It was a strange old game in Belfast.

Many were expecting a home victory following their two wins against Bath in the 2009/10 Heineken Cup, and for a long time it looked like they would not make it three as Ian Humphreys' risky pass was intercepted by full-back Jack Cuthbert, who ran the length of the field despite the best efforts of Scotland international winger Simon Danielli.

That converted score added to Olly Barkley's earlier penalty, which was the perfect way for England's forgotten man to start his 200th.

However that physical edge ultimately won the day for the Northern Irish as BJ Botha and Tom Court dominated matters at scrum-time while the back-row pair Stephen Ferris and Pedrie Wannenburg always got Ulster going forward. The forward duo were key in sealing a vital victory, particularly as Pool leaders Biarritz lost 28-27 away to Aironi in a shock result.

As mentioned, Bath took the lead early on but Humphreys sent over a penalty as Ulster got themselves back into the game after some errors on the Bath side.

But then came a mistake from the side in white as Adam D'Arcy spilled a high ball and Lewis Moody stretched his legs and fended off a weak attempted tackle from Nigel Brady.

The trend continued after the break too as a second interception try saw South African number eight Pedrie Wannenburg snap up Simon Taylor's wayward pass on halfway and cruised over the whitewash. Humphreys' conversion made it 13-15 in Belfast.

Barkley and Humphreys then traded penalties - the latter by two to one - so the scores were 19-18 with a quarter of the game remaining. And Ulster held on to claim the victory as Bath threw everything at them in search of the four points.

Man-of-the-match: Another immense carrying performance from Stephen Ferris. Hats off too to Pedrie Wannenburg and Dan Tuohy who were strong in both attack and defence.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Try: Wannenburg
Con: Humphreys
Pen: Humphreys 5

For Bath:
Tries: Cuthbert, Moody
Con: Barkley
Pen: Barkley 2

Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Nevin Spence, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 BJ Botha, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Andi Kyriacou, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Bryan Young, 19 Tim Barker, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 David McIlwaine.

Bath: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Sam Vesty, 9 Michael Claassens (capt), 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Barnes, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Ben Skirving, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Shontayne Hape, 23 Nick Abendanon.

Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Laurent Cardona (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)