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Monday 9th October 2006

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- 09/10/2006 11:46

- 09/10/2006 11:46

London Irish find themselves at the basement of Pool 5, and have the unenviable task of talking Ulster to try and raise themselves up the table.

It’s not a task that they will find easy. The may have lit up the English league last season, but have found the step up to European competition tough, losing to the Scarlets and Toulouse in rounds 1 and 2.

Ulster, the defending Magners league champions, have a wealth of European experience. They took Toulouse apart in round one, and only narrowly lost to the Scarlets in Round 2.

Mark McCall has named his team and welcomes back International stars Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe into the Ulster side.

Andrew, who was so impressive against South Africa in the Autumn Internationals takes his place on the left wing, while Tommy, who hasn’t been in action since leaving the pitch early on with a hamstring injury in the tremendous victory against Toulouse is on the other wing.

They are the only two changes to the starting fifteen that played against Leinster in the Magners League on Saturday at Ravenhill. Mark Bartholomeusz take his place on the bench to accommodate the return of Trimble and Bowe while Scott Young is not included in the 22.

With Stephen Ferris ruled out for 4-6 weeks with ligament damage to his hand, Kieron Dawson retains the openside position while Neil McMillan is the backrow cover on the bench.

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Irish open Heineken Cup account

Monday 9th October 2006

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 09/10/2006 11:46

- 09/10/2006 11:46

Exiles director of rugby Brian Smith rated his side’s gutsy performance as one of the “top three of the season” and in “the top five” of his coaching reign.

Victory kept alive Irish’s slim hopes of qualification from Pool 5 thanks to an injury time try from Samoan wing Sailosi Tagicakibau which bagged the bonus point.

Defeat for Ulster left their coach Mark McCall more or less resigned to non-qualification for the quarter-finals, although he promised a typical stubborn backlash at Ravenhill in the return leg on Friday night.

Irish started with a bang but were unable to turn their overwhelming pressure into points in the opening 10 minutes. Ulster soaked it all up and struck the first points when David Humphreys landed a penalty after 13 minutes.

The Magners League champions were happy to have their noses in front, but a 14 point blitz in the space of three minutes put the home side well in command. It was the old England midfield magician Mike Catt who conjured up the onslaught and it was no surprise that he went on to pick up the man of the match award.

The first try came from the Argentinian back row man Juan Leguizamon as he backed up his midfield. Then Catt showed he has still got some gas left in his ageing legs as he latched on to a pin point chip over the top by the young Shane Geraghty.

The 20-year-old Exiles outside half didn’t look out of place alongside Catt and was hugely influential throughout the game. Having set up Catt for the second try he knocked over a second conversion.

Ulster were rattled and finally began to find their feet when they decided to keep the ball more in hand. Humphreys kicked a second penalty shortly after Delon Armitage had been sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle and then Irish found themselves cut to 13 men when Justin
Bishop joined him on the touchline for an offence at a ruck.

Ulster sensed an opportunity and after Justin Harrison had won a close range line-out the backs made the most of their numerical advantage to send Paul Steinmetz over for an injury time try.

Humphreys added the conversion and all of a sudden Ulster were back to within a point and still had a two player advantage.

But any thoughts they had in the dressing room at half-time of steamrollering the home side were squashed by some aggressive defence and
some sparkling back play. Geraghty cut through score at the posts after Catt had brilliantly turned deep defence into attack with a thrilling break out from his 22. The outside half added the conversion and then his replacement, Barry Everitt hit the mark with a 76th minute

That seemed to be the final nail in the Ulster coffin, but Tagicakibau had the final say when he was worked clear in the 85th minute to sprint the length of the Ulster 22 to bag the bonus point.

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