Nathan Doak comes of age as Ulster survive almighty Clermont scare 4 months ago

Nathan Doak comes of age as Ulster survive almighty Clermont scare

ULSTER 34-31 CLERMONT

Just over a month ago, Nathan Doak waved goodbye to his teenage years. Now all of 20, he is running the show for Ulster against one of Europe's top sides.

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Ulster had already secured a Last 16 spot, in the Champions Cup, after their win over Northampton Saints, at Franklin's Gardens, last Sunday.

Tonight, with Clermont knowing they could reach the knock-out stages, Dan McFarland's side clattered their guests to fo four wins from four. Rob Herring got a couple of tries, Duane Vermeulen his first in Ulster colours and there were nice tries for Ireland call-ups Mike Lowry and Robert Baloucoune.

Nary an Ulster game seems to pass without a rolling maul try. So it passed again at Kingspan Stadium, as Herring finished off attacking drives on the 7th and 34th minute.

Clermont were being kept ticking over by the goal-kicking of veteran scrumhalf Morgan Parra, but Ulster were eyeing the try-scoring bonus point as early as the 22nd minute when Lowry zoomed over:

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Duane Vermeulen gets his first Ulster try

Rob Herring's second try of the night meant Ulster needed just one more to get the extra point that would boost their Last 16 seeding. That fourth try arrived on the 49th minute and it was the best of the night.

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Showing real attacking intent, Ulster ran the ball from their own 22 and kept the ball alive for two minutes before Vermeulen got over from close range. Nathan Doak had missed two wide conversions in the first half but had found the target just before half-time. He had chipped over a penalty just before that Vermeulen try and he landed the conversion to make it 27-17.

Doak had looked at ease all night as he teamed up well with Billy Burns, made smart decisions under pressure and timed his passes to put players like Nick Timoney, Angus Curtis and James Hume through gaps and onto soft shoulders. With the 20-year-old dictating the tempo, Ulster looked serene.

With 15 minutes to play, McFarland took off Doak and Alan O'Connor. Ulster looked to have sealed a big win when Baloucoune dotted down, but Clermont - suddenly freed up - responded with tries from Jacobus Van Tonder and Alivereti Raka.

With four minutes to play, Clermnt mauled over, Judicaël Cancoriet got the try and Camille Lopez converted. Suddenly the Ulster lead was only 34-31 with time left on the clock.

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It made for a cagey finish, But Ulster clung on. They will get a home tie in the Last 16, as their reward.

"It was mayhem," reflected Hume after the final whistle. "Making it through to the Last 16 is not good enough. We want home quarters if we want to win these cups."

Our Man of the Match: Nathan Doak (Ulster)


 

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