Ulster rue poor start as Stade triumph

Stade Francais 30 Ulster 10

By that time, McCall has frustratingly sat in the stands and watched his side go 30-3 behind to a French side missing a handful of regulars.

Right from the off Ulster were on the back foot. With a litany of unforced errors, creaking line-outs, missed first-up tackles and messy scrums, it was a miracle that Ulster turned around only 9-3 in arrears.

That was due mainly to some manful scrambling by the defence which saw Tommy Bowe, Kieran Campbell and Roger Wilson make try-saving recoveries.

However, any chance of Ulster staging a comeback evaporated within 15 minutes of the restart with the Stade pack rumbling over for two pushover tries from line-outs.

‘’We just could not get our hands on the ball in the first hour or so,’’ said McCall. ‘’We just stood off them and let them run the show.”

It was embarrassingly easy for Stade in the opening period, but midway through the half Humphreys had leveled David Skrela’s third minute penalty.

International Brian Liebenberg was causing all sorts of problems for the Ulster defence as three times he waltzed through gaps. To stop the flow Ulster were penalised four times, but only twice did Skrela find his mark.

Stade took their forward supremacy further at the start of the second half and first Mathieu Blin and then Shaun Sowerby powered over from close range. Stade killed the game off with a patient build-up to release winger Mirco Mergamasco for the third try.

But then came Ulster’s fight-back which coincided with the introduction of Paul Steinmetz for Jonny Bell. Humphreys gained possession from a forward surge and his neat cross-field kick was wonderfully collected by Bowe in mid-air to round his man to score in the corner.

A performance similar to the final 20 minutes might see Ulster chalk up their four victory over Stade at Ravenhill, but don’t bet on it.

STADE FRANCAIS: C Dominici; M Bergamasco, S Glas, B Liebenberg, R Poulain (O Sarrame 61); D Skrela (G Quesada 68), J Fillol; R Roncero (Y Montes 70), M Blin (capt) (A Castola), P Lemoine (R Roncero 84), O Brouzet (D Auradou 84), M James (A Marchois 84), R Jechoux, S Sowerby, P Rabadan.

ULSTER: B Cunningham; S Young, J Bell (P Steinmetz 67), K Maggs, T Bowe; D Humphreys, K Campbell (N Doak 75); R McCormack, P Shields (N Brady 54), R Moore, R Frost (G Longwell ht), M McCullough, C Feather (capt), R Wilson, N Best.

Referee: D Pearson (England).

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