Late surge keeps European dream alive for Ulster

Ulster 9 Biarritz 6

Ulster 9 Biarritz 6

Ian Humphreys landed a last-gasp long-range penalty to keep alive Ulster's hopes of making the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup today.

Humphreys' late match clincher from just inside his own half ensures that the Pool Four winner will be decided in next weekend's final round of games.

Biarritz's losing bonus point could yet prove crucial to who tops the group and the French outfit look more likely to qualify should they beat Bath.

But if Ulster win at Aironi they could be on target to get through as one of the two best runners-up in the competition.

It was a far from attractive game of running rugby, the weather saw to that, but Ulster fought back from trailing 6-0 at half time with two penalties from Humphreys - his first from all of 55 metres - tying the scores.

Then, at the death, he stepped up again and kept Ulster in the race for qualification.

Even with the elements behind them in the first half, Biarritz - still on target to make the quarter finals for the eighth time - barely got out of their half such was the intensity of Ulster's effort in that opening period.

They came out and immediately took the game to the last year's beaten finalists with some strong carrying from Stephen Ferris and Pedrie Wannenburg which got them into a position for an early shot at goal when Magnus Lund was offside at a ruck.

However Humphreys' opening effort went high and was blown out by the gale.

Ulster continued to play pretty much all the rugby in Biarritz territory, assisted by some poor kicking out of hand from Damien Traille and Dimitri Yachvili.

Biarritz's cause seemed further undermined when second row Erik Lund was sent to the bin for interfering with Ruan Pienaar when the scrum half tried to take a quick penalty.

But the visitor's yet they survived the 10 minutes reduced for 14 men and actually opened the scoring when Yachvili nailed a penalty on 17 minutes following a penalty given against BJ Botha at the scrum.

Ulster responded with a great piece of play off a lineout when a Paddy Wallace inside pass released Simon Danielli and when the Scotland international's long pass found Adam D'Arcy on the right wing it looked as if the Ulster full-back was going to make the corner.

However, a great covering tackle from Iain Balshaw managed to push D'Arcy's foot into touch and a great chance for the home side was lost just prior to Lund's return.

Then on the half hour, with the weather deteriorating, Ulster had another opportunity to score which involved D'Arcy again.

This time a cross-kick from Paddy Wallace was superbly kept in by Dan Tuohy who flicked the ball back into space to D'Arcy and the full-back's knee pushed the ball towards the try line in the right corner but D'Arcy's effort to get the touchdown, which went to the TMO, saw a combination of Balshaw and a knock-on from D'Arcy see the chance go begging.

Biarritz continued to pick off the scores though and Yachvili kicked his second penalty just before the break after Ulster had fouled up their own lineout.

Still, there were more encouraging signs for Ulster from the onset of the second half as firstly Biarritz, now without skipper Imanol Harinordoquy, made a mess of receiving the kick-off and then, seven minutes in, Humphreys nailed a wind-assisted penalty from 55 metres to finally get Ulster on the scoreboard.

Humphreys then tied the scores with a more straightforward effort after Magnus Lund was penalised at a ruck three minutes before the hour.

However, errors then began to creep into Ulster's game as Pienaar kicked dead from his own 22 - luckily for the him Traille's subsequent drop goal attempt was woefully wide - and a push from Wannenburg on Yachvili gave Biarritz possession which resulted in a 17-phase attack which brought the French club underneath Ulster's posts.

Magnus Lund knocked on as he tried to driver over, but Biarritz kept the stranglehold on the game, until Samiu Vahafolau was penalised at a ruck for holding on to the ball.

Up stepped Humphreys from just inside his half and he put it straight through the sticks and sent Ravenhill into raptures.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox