First-half try-fest puts Ulster in pole position for last eight

ULSTER’S victory in the Milanese suburb was not as convincing as the score suggests, but the only thing that mattered for the visitors was the attainment of a winning bonus point, according to Pedrie Wannenburg.

The result takes Brian McLaughlin’s men to the top of Pool 4, and gives them a realistic opportunity of making the quarter-finals. Though with Clermont picking up a losing bonus point away to Leicester, the final pool shake-up is likely to go right down to the wire.

The Tigers come to Ravenhill after Christmas and then it’s a trip to the Massif Central for Ulster.

With such a taxing schedule ahead, it was vital that four tries were registered in Monza, and though the northern province laboured for a spell, they eventually got there, touching down six times in total.

“It was all about getting the five points,” agreed Wannenburg.

“That was our sole aim. We’re top at the moment, so we can’t really worry too much about what is happening in the other games. Our fate is in our own hands. There are still two games to play and we have a great incentive to stay top of the pile.”

Ulster had three tries in the bag by half time after Andrew Trimble and Tom Court both crossed the chalk either side of a first-half penalty try. They found the going much tougher after the break, however, and after losing Paddy Jackson to a nasty leg injury, it wasn’t until Craig Gilroy’s 70th minute try that the bonus point was secured.

“It’s hard to know what happened to us after the break,” pondered Director of Rugby David Humphreys at the finish.

“But we are delighted to be sitting at the top of a very tough pool after four games.

“We knew we had to take 10 points from the past two matches to give us a chance going into the final two games in the New Year. It is going to be a huge game at Ravenhill against Leicester and it will be just as difficult the following week when we travel to Clermont. It’s going to be an exciting end to the pool stages and we are looking forward to it.

For us, having suffered from a dip in form earlier in the season, it’s a huge credit to the players and management that we’ve been able to turn it around and are very competitive again,”

Scorers for Aironi: Try: R Quartaroli, S Sinoti, G Biagi; Conversion: L Orquera; Penalty: L Orquera.

Scorers for Ulster: Try: A Trimble, T Court, R Diack, A Macklin, C Gilroy, Penalty Try (1); Conversion: I Humphreys (3) , R Pienaar (2) ; Penalty: I Humphreys (2).

AIRONI: R Trevisan (R Quartaroli 48); S Sinoti, A Masi, G Pizarro, G Venditti; L Orquera (N Olivier 59), T Keats (T Tebaldi 59); S Perugini (A de Marchi 41), F Ongaro (T D’Apice 46), L Romano (F Staibano 46), Q Geldenhuys (M Bortolami 54), M Bortolami (c) (Q Geldenhuys 50), N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole.

ULSTER: A D’Arcy; A Trimble (S Terblanche 49), D Cave, N Spence (P Jackson 46), C Gilroy (A Macklin 76); I Humphreys (P Marshall 65), R Pienaar; T Court (P McAllister 49), R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy (T Barker 59), S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg (R Diack 65).

Referee: Greg Garner (England).

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