How the Ulster players rated

Rod Nawn rates the Ulster men in a Payne-less game.

How the Ulster players rated

JARED PAYNE: In despair after his marginally-late mid-air tackle on opposition full-back Alex Goode was eventually punished with a red card from an over-zealous referee. 3

ANDREW TRIMBLE: A typically focused and vigorous display from the Ireland winger, but in a denuded backline for 75 minutes his opportunities to attack freely were few. 8

DARREN CAVE: In a midfield under almost constant threat he was brave and defiant, and he used his good footballing brain to good defensive effect. 7

LUKE MARSHALL: Rugged and ‘in your face’ the centre never allowed the opposition midfield the space it needed to capitalise on its advantage in personnel. Brushed aside another knock to the head. 7

TOMMY BOWE: An uncertain start for the Lions winger, but he probed the Sarries’ defence on a spartan diet of possession, ran excellent lines and tackled with relish. 8

PADDY JACKSON: The out-half’s kicking for position and territory was mostly well-judged, but a pacey Saracens back-row limited his attacking forays. His late penalties gave a glimpse of an upset. 7

RUAN PIENAAR: His first-half penalties, tenacious defence and positional kicking kept the visitors at bay, but Ulster’s ‘conductor’ at scrum-half left the action early in the second period with the troublesome shoulder injury which had put is starting place in doubt. 7

TOM COURT: A selfless shift in the front row gave his side a real competitive steel, and in his final outing in the Heineken Cup for the Province he was effective and mobile in the loose. 8

RORY BEST: Energetic start from the Ireland hooker, but his fifth-minute departure with an ankle problem took another key player out of the Ulster line-up early on. 4

JOHN AFOA: The World Cup-winning tight-head from New Zealand stuck successfully to his task in the scrum where Saracens never took the control expected against 14. 9

JOHANN MULLER: The captain marshalled his side superbly after the shock dismissal of Payne, did his own work up front well, but tired towards the end. 7

DAN TUOHY: The Irish lock forward secured his own lineout ball cleanly, and energetically disrupted the vaunted Saracens set-piece and was prominent in sometimes desperate Ulster defence. 7

ROGER WILSON: A wholehearted and typically physical display on the blindside of the back row, but had to cover a lot of space and Hodgson exploited some gaps down the side of ruck and maul. 7

NICK WILLIAMS: Back to his best at times in the open, his barnstorming runs from No.8 created havoc. Key to some impressive Ulster forward drives 7

CHRIS HENRY: Worked hard as he only knows how, closing down the inevitable gaps created by the early Red card. But Saracens neutralised his usual expertise in turning the ball over. 6

Replacements

ROB HERRING: His unexpected early arrival for the injured Best brought out a sterling performance at the lineout at in Ulster’s succession of rolling mauls. 7

IAIN HENDERSON: Settled into Tuohy’s boots quickly with great energy, but Sarries were making the extra man pay. 6

STEPHEN FERRIS: Controversially started the game on the bench, but on the hour announced his arrival with a crunching tackle on Joubert. Part of an heroic late effort to overhaul the advantage created by Ashton’s try brace. 7

ROBBIE DIACK: He had little time to make a real impact, but did not flinch when the forward exchanges became torrid late on in the match. 6

PAUL MARSHALL: The pivot replaced crowd favourite Pienaar and showed a welcome return to form with some crisp passing and sparked a ferocious onslaught from Ulster in the last 10 minutes. 7

CRAIG GILROY: Came on when Trimble was injured putting in a shuddering tackle, and slotted into the three-quarter line smoothly, offering an energetic option when all around him legs were tiring. 7

SARACENS

Alex Goode (4), Chris Ashton (9), Duncan Taylor (5), Brad Barritt (7), David Strettle (6), Owen Farrell (8), Richard Wigglesworth (7), Mako Vunipola (7), Schalk Brits (7), James Johnston (6), Steve Borthwick (7), Mouritz Botha (8), Billy Vunipola (7), Jacques Burger (8), Ernst Joubert (7).

Replacements: Kelly Brown (6), Charlie Hodgson (8), Chris Wyles (7).

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