Ulster beat Bath but fall short
January 23, 2010
Andrew Trimble slides in to score for Ulster
© Getty Images
Ulster broke a hoodoo with a 28-10 over Bath at the Recreation Ground, finally winning on English soil after 11 previous failures.
Stade Francais' losing bonus-point against Edinburgh at Murrayfield was good enough to secure victory in Pool 4 of the Heineken Cup, leaving Ulster waiting to discover if they have secured a route into the European Challenge Cup as one of three runners up.
A brilliant individual try from Andrew Trimble and further well-worked efforts by Darren Cave and Paddy Wallace carried Ulster past Bath, who lost lock Danny Grewcock to a red card for stamping in the first-half.
Ulster fly-half Niall O'Connor slotted the opening points of the game with a penalty following a powerful run by hooker Nigel Brady. Bath struggled to deal with Ulster's pace in the early stages, with Wallace causing particular problems.
O'Connor's second penalty was followed by a brilliant response from the under-pressure home side. Joe Maddock took on the Ulster defence out wide, carving a path towards the line before finding an inch-perfect offload to a rampaging Matt Banahan. The wing dived over in the corner to the delight of the home crowd, whose cheers had barely quietened by the time Nicky Little curled in a touchline conversion.
Bath continued their upwards curve with a series of powerful drives, veteran lock Grewcock conspicuous in the loose. Ulster's talisman, blindside Stephen Ferris, joined the line well and almost freed fullback Jamie Smith, only for the scrambling Bath defence to shut down the attack.
The home side's hopes were dealt a huge blow when Grewcock saw red for a blatant stamp on the outstretched arm of Ferris. The resulting penalty was brilliantly dispatched by O'Connor to rub salt in the wounds of Bath.
The second-half exploded into life with a moment of brilliance from Trimble. The winger, recalled to the Ireland squad this week, produced a devastating step to open the Bath defence before pinning his ears back and outstripping fullback Maddock on the outside.
Ulster's next try was another picture. With Bath edging their way back into contention, Simon Danielli chipped over the onrushing defence on his 22, latching onto a kind bounce and racing clear. With Bath frantically chasing the Scottish international he coolly popped the ball outside to Cave, who coasted over.
O'Connor slotted a simple conversion before Bath embarked on their best move of the game. Little pulled off a neat wraparound before delaying his pass to Luke Watson, who burst clear. The former Springbok No.8 pirouetted out of one tackle but was soon stopped, with Isaac Boss conceding a penalty, which Little converted.
A harsh call for a no-arm tackle by Trimble gave Bath further field position but aggressive Ulster defence resulted in another break-out. This time Bath responded in kind, with first Banahan and then Watson powering through the away defence. Bath showed great heart and determination to dominate possession as the half wore on but were unable to find a gap in the Ulster defence.
The Irish province scored the final points with a solo effort from Wallace, who stepped through some static defence to score under the posts.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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