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16th Jan 2022

Austin Healey raves about Mike Lowry and James Hume as Ulster reach Last 16

Patrick McCarry

James Hume


Andy Farrell will name his Ireland squad for the 2022 Six Nations soon, and James Hume is doing his best for the call-up. So are a few other Ulster lads.

Ulster marched on to the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup with a fine win over Northampton Saints, at Franklin’s Gardens. Mike Lowry and Robert Baloucoune were try-scoring heroes while Marty Moore, Nathan Doak and Kieran Treadwell all had brilliant shifts.

One player that certainly enjoyed himself, and had the commentators raving, was Ulster centre James Hume [45 metres made off 13 carries, six tackles made and two turnovers won].

After another effective carry and offload, midway through a positive first half for Ulster, former England and Lions star Austin Healey pressed his case for Ireland. In discussing, on BT Sport, how Hume could add an extra dimension for Ireland in the 13 jersey, Healey declared:

“I think he could be the answer to Ireland’s midfield.”

Many Ireland supporters would suggest, off the back of an eight-game winning streak that includes big victories over England and New Zealand, that their centre partnerships have been going well.

Indeed, co-commentator Rory Best did note how Farrell has quality operators Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki to call on. Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell are options too but, as Darren Cave has suggested, Hume may have leapfrogged that pair.

Hume has been called into a couple of Ireland squads, by Farrell, and he made his Test debut in last summer’s win over the USA.

Mike Lowry of Ulster dives over to score his side’s third try against Northampton, at Franklin’s Gardens. (Photo by Paul Harding/Sportsfile)

Ulster finish off Saints to progress

Dan McFarland’s side got off to an excellent start when Rob Baloucoune and Nathan Doak – two more lads pressing for Ireland call-ups – scored in the first 13 minutes.

Northampton responded with a Dan Biggar try, and penalty, but the livewire Mike Lowry capped off a great opening 40 minutes by getting over for his side’s third try. 19-10 at the break and Ulster were close to the result they needed.

Despite losing their first two games in the pool stages, any side containing Courtney Lawes, George Furbank, Lewis Ludlam and Biggar would take some beating. Saints tagged back three points through their Wales outhalf and set up a cagey final 25 minutes.

Another sparkling Lowry carry, on 55 minutes, almost led to a fourth Ulster try but did see Alex Mitchell yellow-carded for not releasing the fullback after tackling him. Ian Madigan, on for Burns, tried to fool Saints with a quick-tap penalty but ran into Lawes and was gobbled up, giving the hosts a reprieve.

That reprieve was temporary as Baloucoune’s lovely offload put Ethan McIlroy away and the winger found Lowry in support for a try that made it 24-13. The diminutive fullback was named BT’s Man of the Match, late on, and who are we to disagree?

The Ireland squad for the 2022 Six Nations  is named this week, and it should contain a healthy batch of Ulster faces.

Our Man of the Match: Mike Lowry (Ulster)

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