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Impressive Ulster Take Stade Scalp

Impressive Ulster Take Stade Scalp

Fired-up Ulster inflicted a first Heineken Cup defeat of the campaign on Stade Francais in a result that throws qualification from Pool 4 potentially wide open, with both sides due to meet again next weekend in Brussels.

This was Stade’s fifth loss from six visits to Ravenhill and Ulster’s ability to match the French side in the collision zone and to take their chances when they were presented to them saw them deservedly secure their second victory of the European campaign.

The result, teed up by tries from hooker Nigel Brady and winger Simon Danielli, puts Brian McLaughlin’s men level on nine points with pool leaders Stade, ahead of their showdown in Brussels.

Keeping alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1999, Ulster thrilled the vocal Ravenhill crowd which including Ireland coach Declan Kidney, who would have been impressed with the form shown by the likes of Ian Humphreys, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble. 

Humphreys kicked 13 points and showed his play-making qualities in the lead-up to both tries.

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Some aggressive defensive work, all of which saw Stade skipper Rodrigo Roncero lose his composure long before the end, sets up next weekend’s clash as potentially crucial to the outcome of the pool.

The opening score, with Ulster playing into the sun, arrived in the wake of a missed penalty from Humphreys which rebounded off the upright and was knocked on by Pierre Rabadan.

From the scrum, the Stade front row were penalised and, from under the posts, Humphreys made no mistake with his 12th minute effort.

But Stade hit back with Lionel Beauxis making up for earlier penalty and drop goal misses by bisecting the posts after 16 minutes after Geoffrey Messina was adjudged to have been blocked.

However, a downfield kick from Hugo Southwell was then punished to the maximum degree when Humphreys collected and set off up the left wing channel.

He exchanged passes with big winger Danielli in a fluid move and now in open territory inside Stade’s 22, he put Brady clear with the hooker cantering over for only his second Ulster try.

Humphreys then hit a marvellous conversion and the home side, roared on by their passionate supporters, were 10-3 in front.

Beauxis did manage to get some points on the board with his second successful kick from five attempts when Ulster infringed three minutes before the half hour, but Humphreys then slotted his second penalty when Stade were penalised for handling the ball on the ground.

Ulster showed their intentions right from the start of the second half when a Humphreys-inspired break saw Darren Cave chip over the line only for Messina to run it dead.

But the pressure remained on Stade as Mathieu Bastareaud was penalised for taking Humphreys out.

Julien Dupuy was sin-binned on 45 minutes for an off-the-ball clash and a Humphreys penalty stretched Ulster’s lead to 16-6.

Then, with Beauxis having just been replaced, Humphreys spun the ball right and Ulster broke up that wing with a great burst from the rampaging Ferris and the Ireland flanker sent the supporting Danielli dashing over in the right corner. A timely try and a glimpse of just what Ulster can do on the counter.

Humphreys nailed another terrific conversion and Ulster were now 23-6 to the good. He was short with another penalty attempt before Dupuy returned to the action.

Even though Stade emptied their bench and grew increasingly frustrated, they still came in search of a bonus point and replacement winger Julien Arias got over with seven minutes remaining. Noel Oelschig’s conversion cut the gap to ten points.

However, Oelschig’s penalty effort, two minutes before the end, failed to reach the posts and Ulster held on for another notable Ravenhill success, with both sides seeing out the game down to 14 men – replacement props Bryan Young and David Attoub were yellow carded for scuffling.