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Players shaking hands at full-time. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Champions Cup

Ulster's losing run continues as five-try Bath run rampant in Champions Cup opener

Ulster were leading at half-time but Johann van Graan’s side turned the screw after the restart.

Bath 37
Ulster 14

ULSTER’S LOSING RUN stretched to three games with five-try Bath running rampant in the second-half to open their Champions Cup campaign with a convincing win.

Ulster had led 14-8 at half-time in what was something of a smash and grab thanks to two tries in four minutes but Johann van Graan’s side turned the screw after the restart.

The northern province limped into the game off the back of consecutive URC losses, both coming at the hands of Scottish opposition in the shape of Glasgow and latterly Edinburgh, but this was certainly the most decisive of the recent defeats.

They could at least recall Irish international Iain Henderson into their second-row after the inspirational skipper sat out the second of those reverses with a hip issue. Similarly what has at times looked a callow bench this year was bolstered by the returns to fitness of Rob Herring, Mike Lowry and Jake Flannery.

After head coach Dan McFarland spoke of the need to up his side’s standards in training last week, eyes will have been focused upon what sort of response he got from his players at a ground where they last played in 2019.

Starting well has not been the side’s problem, they took the lead in each of the past two weeks, but the opening quarter here was a back and forth affair. Bath had the most prolonged period of pressure but would ultimately come away with no points from a lengthy spell in the Ulster ’22′ when Finn Russell’s penalty sailed off line after James Hume was called for not releasing.

Ulster’s own best opportunity for an early score had also come to nought, Stewart Moore’s looping miss-pass beyond the lurking Robert Baloucoune on the wing.

Through the second quarter, though, Johann Van Graan’s side would gain a real foothold, clearly sensing they had Ulster at scrum-time.

A real issue for the northern province during their start to the URC campaign, it fared no better here and having earned themselves a penalty advantage at a previous scrum, skipper Ben Spencer had no hesitation in calling for another when Ulster were caught offside five metres from their own line.

Pierre Brousset again raised his arm but Bath played from the base, Spencer’s brilliant pass putting Cokanasiga over in the corner. The scrum-half, taking the tee from Russell couldn’t add the extras but would knock over a penalty soon after for an 8-0 lead.

Bath were truly in the ascendancy but will have been kicking themselves that they allowed Ulster not only back in the game but to lead at the break.

A pair of tries just four minutes apart, the first of which saw Billy Burns gifted a score when Lawrence kicked the a loose ball into the shins of Billy Burns and the Ulster out-half got to the rebound first to score.

The second came in a flash, a neat exchange between Stuart McCloskey, Hume and Baloucoune putting Nathan Doak into space to score underneath the posts. With the scrum-half converting both, Ulster led 14-8 at the turn.

Six minutes into the second-half, Bath were ahead again, Tom Dunn’s mauled score converted impressively by Spencer from out wide. Ten minutes later, the former Saracens man kicked another penalty to put his side four points ahead as the game approached the final quarter.

Ulster simply got no purchase in the second-half, getting on the wrong side of the referee up to the point where replacement Matty Rea was sin-binned with 15 minutes to go. Thomas Du Toit’s try from close range, again after Ulster couldn’t get to grips at the scrum, put paid to the visitor’s chances but there was still the small matter of Bath’s bonus-point.

That would arrive when Cokanasiga went over for his second while Matt Gallagher went over with three minutes remaining to give the score-line an even more one-sided hue.

Bath Scores
Tries - Joe Cokanasiga (2), Tom Dunn, Thomas du Toit, M Gallagher
Conversions - Ben Spencer 2/3, Orlando Bailey 1/1
Penalties - Finn Russell 0/1 Ben Spencer 2/3

Ulster Scorers
Tries - Billy Burns. Nathan Doak
Conversions - Nathan Doak 2/2

Bath Rugby: Matt Gallagher; Joe Cokanasiga, Ollie Lawrence (Will Butt, 70), Cameron Redpath, Will Muir; Finn Russell (Orlando Bailey, 70), Ben Spencer (Louis Schreuder, 70); Beno Obano (Juan Schoeman, 70), Tom Dunn (Niall Annett, 70), Will Stuart (Thomas du Toit, 51); Elliott Stooke, Charlie Ewels; Miles Reid (GJ van Velze, 70), Sam Underhill, Alfie Barbeary (Jaco Coetzee, 72)

Ulster Rugby: Stewart Moore (Mike Lowry, 70); Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns (Jake Flannery, 59), Nathan Doak (John Cooney, 51); Steven Kitshoff (Andy Warwick, 71), Tom Stewart (Rob Herring, 47), Tom O’Toole (Marty Moore, 47); Alan O’Connor (Kieran Treadwell, 49), Iain Henderson; Dave Ewers, Nick Timoney, James McNabney (Matty Rea, 59)

Referee: Pierre Brousset

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Written by The 42 Team and posted on

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