Ulster down Bath for quarter-final spot
MATCH REPORT: A stirring second-half display saw Ulster make sure of progress to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup but winless Bath made them work hard for their 22-15 success in Belfast.
The sides were locked to 7-7 at half-time but Ulster rarely looked back after a stunning start to the second period when a superb right flank move saw fullback Will Addison send wing Robert Baloucoune in at the corner.
Bath did the cut the deficit back to four points with a Freddie Burns penalty but Ulster had the perfect response as Addison this time turned try scorer with a strong left touchline finish after more crisp handling.
Bath made sure it went down to the wire when Ross Batty plunged over with 15 minutes remaining but he then turned villain as he received a red card seven minutes from time for a high tackle on John Cooney and Billy Burns clinched victory with the resulting penalty.
Ulster started in fine style and there was no surprise when they landed the opening blow as no. 8 Marcel Coetzee showed his strength from close range after a drive from a line-out. Cooney’s conversion made it 7-0 and it looked pretty straightforward for the Irish side at that stage.
But Bath seemed determined to avoid losing all six Pool game in European competition for the first time as they stuck gamely to the task.
The visitors forward dug in well and after a spell of pressure flyhalf Freddie Burns’s angled kick to the corner bounced away from the covering Jacob Stockdale and straight into the arms of Bath winger Ruaridh McConnochie for the touchdown. Burns’s angled conversion took the sides into the break level at 7-7.
It was a decent effort from Bath who had been down to 14-men for a ten minute spell when flank Tom Ellis was sin-binned for a blatant push on the supporting John Cooney as he looked to add the finishing touches to a fine break by Coetzee.
Ulster got into gear after the break though and were deserving of their victory in a thrilling contest.
Tries: Coetzee, Baloucoune, Addison
Cons: Cooney 2
Tries: McConnochie, Batty
Yellow card: Tom Ellis (Bath. 22)
Red Card: Ross Batty (Bath, 72)
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Gabe Hamer-Webb, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Max Wright, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ollie Fox, 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Matt Garvey, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Aled Brew.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Cedric Marchat (France), Luc Ramos (France)
TMO: Patrick Dellac (France)