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Stuart McCloskey goes over to score one of Ulster's four tries. Tom Maher/INPHO
Champions Cup

Ulster rediscover form as they hold off Racing's second-half revival

Two tries from Nick Timoney helped Ulster to a 31-15 win over Racing 92.

Investec Champions Cup & EPCR Challenge Cup / YouTube

Ulster 31-15 Racing 92

AT TIMES BRILLIANT, at others complacent, Ulster found themselves grateful for the kicking yips of Racing 92’s fly-half Antoine Gibert to make things comfortable at key stages in this Champions Cup clash.

That’s not to take away from a performance that mixed the blue-collar devotion to the maul with some smart breaks, and some stout defence.

What stood out was the inventiveness, three out of their four tries coming from something conjured up from tap penalties. The first one came after four minutes, John Cooney scooping up to Nick Timoney and generating a maul to go over.

It took until the 16th minute for Racing to breach the Ulster 22. Scrum half Nolan Le Garrec made a dart but was caught at the ankles by Tom Stewart.

The visitors thought they had their first try of the night on 19 minutes when Gibert went over after a snappy exchange of passes with Le Garrec, but referee Luke Pearce ruled it out for obstruction on an Ulster player.

The second try arrived after another sustained period of pressure camped deep in the Racing defence, Cooney flinging it a short distance to Stuart McCloskey who rolled off his man into a yawning gap. The conversion by Cooney kissed the near left-hand post on the way over.

At the third time of asking, Le Garrec got his try. A crossfield pass bamboozled Robert Balacoune and while Max Spring’s positive run was halted by the lively Michael Lowry, Le Garrec’s supporting run met with service and he went over. His conversion attempt, however, barely made it off the floor.

nick-timoney-carries Nick Timoney. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

With the half winding to a close, Ulster were in the mood and put together an electrifying move between Lowry, Jacob Stockdale and Nick Timoney to send Cooney scampering towards the line only to be held up a few feet short.

After a number of probes, they found Matty Rea in splendid isolation in the right wing position usually occupied by Balacoune to go over unimpeded.

The angle was tricky for Cooney – tight on the right side for a right-sided kicker, but he laced it to leave Ulster ahead at the break, 21-5.

They started the second half in the same fashion. In the 44th minute, they were handed a penalty and Billy Burns went the short distance to the corner. From the Herring lineout, Iain Henderson fielded and they put together a bruising maul.

As that died out they put together the phases: ten in all, before getting a five-metre penalty. Sticking with what they know, they took another quick tap and set the maul before Timoney went over for his second try under the posts, Cooney adding the simple conversion.

Ulster withstood sustained pressure in the corner on 54 minutes, but soon after Janick Tarrit went over in the same spot, Gibert’s conversion effort sailing wide.

Ten minutes later, Tarrit was going over again from a lineout maul but once again the conversion was astray.

By this stage the gravity of the game was shifting but Ulster were thrown a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty within Cooney’s range and he knocked it over from 25 metres.

Scorers for Ulster:

  • Tries: Nick Timoney (4, 47), Stuart McCloskey (24), Matty Rea (37)
  • Conversions: John Cooney (4, 24, 37, 47)
  • Penalties: Cooney (71)

Scorers for Racing 92:

  • Tries: Nolan Le Garrec (30), Janick Tarrit (56, 66)

Ulster: Michael Lowry; Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Steven Kitshoff, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (capt), Dave Ewers, Nick Timoney, Matty Rea.

Replacements:  Tom Stewart for Herring (9-22, HIA), Jake Flannery for Burns (53), Stewart for Herring (55), Kieran Treadwell for Henderson, Harry Sheridan for Rea (60), Eric O’Sullivan for Kitshoff, Marty Moore for Tom O’Toole (76), Nathan Doak for John Cooney, Stewart Moore for James Hume (78).

Racing 92: Max Spring; Henry Arundell, Gael Fickou, Henry Chavancy, Juan Imhoff; Antoine Gibert, Nolan Le Garrec; Hassane Holingar, Janick Tarrit, Trevor Nyakane, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Will Rowlands, Cameron Woki, Siya Kolisi, Wenseslas Lauret.

Replacements: Fabien Sanconnie for Chouzenoux (40), Guram Gogichashvili for Kolingar (52), Ibrahim Diallo for Kolisi (55), Maxime Baudonne for Woki (55), Tristan Tedder for Arundell (61), Junior Tabuavou for Chavancy (61), Gia Kharaishvili for Nyakane (61), Eddy Ben Arous for Tarrit (70)

Referee: Luke Pearce 

Written by Declan Bogue and posted on

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