Ulster book last 16 spot
EUROPEAN CUP REPORT: Fullback Michael Lowry scored a try brace as Ulster Rugby won 24-20 at Northampton Saints on Sunday to confirm their qualification for Champions Cup Round of 16.
Lowry crossed in either half as Ulster outclassed Northampton in the Pool A contest at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Irish province drew first blood on six minutes as their first meaningful attack saw them advance into the Saints 22m, with wing Rob Baloucoune scooping up a loose offload and finishing excellently in the corner.
Baloucoune then turned provider on 13 minutes as he spearheaded a rapid Ulster counter-attack and fed scrumhalf Nathan Doak who dotted down with ease.
Northampton threatened in spells but suffered from a lack of accuracy as a number of balls went to ground, though they got themselves on the score board as Dan Biggar slotted a penalty in front of the posts on 19 minutes.
And the flyhalf would grab Saints’ first try of the game as he finished off a brilliant move following a turnover from flank Courtney Lawes – playing his 250th game for the club – on halfway.
But Ulster would have the final say of the half as a chip over of the top of the Northampton defence caused chaos and Lowry sneaked in under the posts.
A second Biggar penalty would reduce the deficit for Northampton shortly after the break, but their hopes of mounting a recovery took a setback on 55 minutes as scrumhalf Alex Mitchell was sent to the sin bin for an infringement close to his own line.
Ulster would make the man advantage count – more good work Baloucoune helped send the ball wide to Lowry, who darted over for his second try of the game on the hour mark.
The visitors closed out the remainder of the game, and although there was a brief moment of hope for Northampton when centre Rory Hutchinson went over in the final minute, Ulster held on for a third win from three games in Pool A.
Northampton are away at Racing 92 in Round 4 next weekend while Ulster entertain ASM Clermont Auvergne.
For Northampton Saints
Tries: Biggar, Hutchinson
Cons: Biggar, Furbank
Pens: Biggar 2;
Tries: Baloucoune, Doak, Lowry 2;
Cons: Doak 2
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Tom Litchfield, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Brandon Nansen, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Tom James, 23 Tommy Freeman
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Rob Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Marcus Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andy Warwick
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ben Moxham
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant referees: Luc Ramos (France), Flavien Hourquet (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)