Results elsewhere yesterday decided that the home side would just miss out in qualifying as one of the three best runners-up, Stade Francais’ home win over Leicester edging Ulster out of eighth spot.
“We’re obviously disappointed, but we were also aware of the mountain to be climbed,” said Director of Rugby Les Kiss.
In the very first minute Paddy Jackson spurned a kickable penalty, earned the line-out in the left corner, and then good thinking from Paul Marshall sent his skipper Rob Herring over on the left for a converted try after 90 seconds. Rory Clegg landed a 50 metre penalty to put the visitors on the scoreboard but the first half was all Ulster invention and attack. Clever midfield switches, Jackson the conductor, sent Darren Cave in for a fine try, again improved by the out-half to extend the home advantage to 14-3. Andrew Trimble left the field in the 28th minutes with a cut to the ear, and his replacement Rory Scholes was instantly on the end of a superb break involving Jackson and Luke Marshall to score at the posts, Jackson adding the extras.
Jjust before the break Jackson again kicked a penalty to the left corner, Robbie Diack ‘snaffled’ possession, and from a resultant ruck flanker Sean Reidy dived over for the bonus-point converted try and a 28-3 half-time lead.
Ten minutes after the restart Luke Marshall, impressive throughout, created space on the right, his pass to Craig Gilroy was deliberately knocked on, but swiftly the ball was swept out to the right and Gilroy touched down in the corner, the flawless Jackson making it 35-3.
In the 62nd minute Reidy’s mazy sprint down the left brought a sixth try for Robbie Diack, Ian Humphreys converting from the touchline, and seven minutes later the replacement out-half created and exploited the space to score at the posts, and adding the points for a 49-3 lead.
A minute later the romp continued, Payne jinking over for another converted try.
The visitors’ fire was reserved for a thwarted late breakaway effort from winger Dug Cudjo, and thunderous midfield tackle on Humphreys which meant Jackson returned for the last three minutes.
Tries: Herring, Cave, Scholes, Reidy, Gilroy, Diack, Humphreys, Payne Cons: Jackson (5), Humphreys (3).
J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall; K McCall, R Herring (capt), R Lutton; A O’Connor F van der Merwe; R Diack, N Williams, S Reidy.
R Best (for Herring, 73), C Black (for McCall, 8), B Ross (for Lutton, 65), C Ross (for Williams, 59), R Wilson (for van der Merwe, 50), D Shanahan (for P Marshall, 67), I Humphreys (for Jackson, 51), R Scholes (for Trimble, 28-39, for Cave 62).
F Denos (capt); D Ikpefan, G Bousses, A Taufa D Codjo; R Clegg, J Blanc; S Tonga’uiha, T Bordes, G Vepkhvadze; L Power, G Fabbri; V Ursache, P Wanneberg, P Gunter.
J Maurouard (for Bordes, 52), L Delboulbes (for Tonga’uiha, 67), H Pungea (for Vepkhvadze, 41), F Metz (for Power, 51), M Fa’asavalu (for Ursache, 66), F Cibray, R Lespinas (for Clegg, 56), E Sheridan (for Taufa, 62).
Marius Mitrea (Italy)