Ulster join Leinster in Champions Cup quarter final after tense Bath victory
ULSTER 22-15 BATH
It was not often pretty but Ulster got the job done against Bath, even if it took a reckless red card to swing the tie in their favour.
Ulster led 19-15 with less than 10 minutes to go, and were just about hanging on, when sub hooker Ross Batty put in a high shoulder shot that connected with the head of John Cooney. It took several replays, and minutes, but the match referee eventually gave Batty his marching orders and a penalty, which all but sealed Bath's fate and Ulster passage to the last eight of the Champions Cup.
Bath started the afternoon on a meagre four points in the pool and they were without the likes of Rhys Priestland, Anthony Watson, Semesa Rokoduguni and Joe Cokanasiga for the game. So, when Ulster went 7-0 ahead after only seven minutes - with John Cooney converting a Marcell Coetzee try - one would have been forgiven to writing this game off.
Instead it was Bath that scored next and it came with Ulster fullback Will Addison off for treatment on a cut to the head. Jacob Stockdale was covering for Addison when he was undone by the bounce as he was trying to cover across to deal with Freddie Burns' cross-field kick. The ball bounced up invitingly for Ruaridh McConnochie and he crashed over.
Ulster failed to score when Bath were reduced to 14 men, soon after, when Tom Ellis pushed Cooney to scupper a scoring chance for the home side. The half ended with Bath on the attack and some in the crowd hoping their side got their act together in the second half. HALF-TIME: Ulster 7-7 Bath
Those nervous home supporters were buoyed, then, when Will Addison put Robert Baloucoune in for his third try in five European games. It was another slick attacking move but there was end product on this foray.
Addison then got over for the province's third try, on 48 minutes, and even though Cooney missed his touchline conversion it was 19-10 to the hosts.
Again, though, Bath did not wilt. The Bath scrum was dominating Ulster's and winning penalties all afternoon. The pressure told as Bath mauled brutishly and Ross Batty dived over. Freddie Burns missed the conversion and Ulster led by just four points with 13 minutes to go.
On 72 minutes came the turning point. Batty put in a high shot on ball-carrying Cooney and, after a lengthy TMO check, was red-carded.
Ulster took the sensible option and Billy Burns kicked three points as a groggy Cooney headed to the sidelines. That made it 22-15 and it was enough to send the home side into the knock-out stages for the second season in succession.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Marcel Coetzee (Ulster)
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Barry Murphy and Jerry Flannery are in the House of Rugby studio reflect on a tough weekend for three of the Irish provinces, lavish more praise on Leinster and look ahead to Andy Farrell naming his first Ireland squad.