Close but not close enough for Ulster

Bath 10 Ulster 28

Bath 10 Ulster 28

Ulster pulled off a famous Heineken Cup victory at the Recreation Ground, their first in England, but just failed to qualify from Pool Four.

Tries from Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave and Paddy Wallace made it a miserable exit from the competition for Bath who had former England lock Danny Grewcock sent off in the 32nd minute.

While Bath, champions in 1998, finished bottom of the pool with just one victory, Ulster just missed out on a quarter-final place as they failed to earn a bonus point for scoring four tries. A losing bonus point for Stade Francais in their final match against Edinburgh was enough to put the Parisians through.

Ulster’s 22-year-old fly-half Niall O’Connor opened the scoring on six minutes after Bath fell offside defending their 22 from a rapid counter-attack by flanker David Pollock and hooker Nigel Brady.

Almost from the restart Nicky Little had a chance to pull Bath level but struck the post from 35 metres and the ball was cleared.

Ulster continued their bright start, setting up position in the Bath 22 with a clever kick through by Darren Cave. Centre partner Paddy Wallace then wriggled through a gap to threaten the Bath line but Ulster knocked on from the ensuing ruck.

Bath found themselves under needless pressure when the pack were penalised en masse for gathering too slowly for a line-out. Ulster worked the ball to Stephen Ferris who drove into the Bath defence, setting up a ruck from which Julian Salvi was penalised. O’Connor made it 6-0 from in front of the posts with 19 minutes gone.

Ulster had made all the running in the first quarter but Bath snatched the lead almost straight away as Ulster failed to gather the restart and the ball was moved quickly through the hands for Joe Maddock to send England wing Matt Banahan in at the corner. Little converted from the touchline.

Little conjured an excellent kick out of hand to force Ulster into their own 22 but the Irishmen mauled their way out of danger from the lineout.

With the Ulster line-out functioning well and O’Connor now finding his range with his own tactical kicks, the visitors soon returned to the attack.

On the half-hour Bath found themselves under pressure again and Matt Carraro was penalised for diving in at the side of a ruck. O’Connor chose to chip to the corner rather than the posts and Ulster turned up the pressure again with a catch and drive.

As a ruck broke up on 32 minutes, referee Jerome Garces called Grewcock over and showed him the red card. TV replays showed that he had stamped on Ferris’s arm after the Lions blindside flanker had held his foot.

O’Connor kicked the penalty and Bath held out until half-time. But Ulster scored immediately after the break and what a try it was.

Simon Danielli fielded a kick on his own 22 and made ground before linking with Andrew Trimble.

The Irish wing set off on a 65 metre run to the Bath line, deceiving Little with a clever change of pace before touching down.

Seven minutes later Danielli was the creator again, setting off on an 80-metre run of his own before offloading to Cave for a try that had the travelling Ulster fans on their feet. This time O’Connor had no difficulty with the conversion.

Little pulled back three points with a penalty at the other end but Bath’s efforts to get back into the game were increasingly frantic.

Instead it was Ulster who wrapped things up shortly before time when Wallace wriggled through under the posts.

But it was not enough to seal a quarter-final spot, although the Irish province may yet gain a place in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup.

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