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Ulster seek to end strange streak

Thursday 9th December 2021

12:00 pm (GMT)

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Ulster seek to end strange streak

Ulster Rugby lock Iain Henderson in action in the Heineken Champions Cup

Ulster Rugby head to France on Saturday evening to take on ASM Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup – and they will be looking to break an unusual streak.

This will be the seventh clash between the two sides in the competition – and the previous six have all been pool stage meetings won by the home side.

The Pool A encounter kicks off at 17:30 (UK and Irish time) and can be watched on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.

Other key facts:

  • Clermont have lost their last three home games in a row in the Heineken Champions Cup, their worst such run and as many defeats as they had suffered in their previous 41 home games.
  • Ulster have not won an away game in France in the Heineken Champions Cup since January 2016 (v Oyonnax), losing their last six matches in the country.
  • Clermont wing Kotaro Matsushima was the joint top try-scorer in the Heineken Champions Cup last season, scoring four times.
  • Clermont duo Damian Penaud (23) and George Moala (20) were two of just three players to beat more than 20 defenders in the Heineken Champions Cup last season.

Key quotes:

Iain Henderson (Ulster captain): “We know that Clermont haven’t been going as well as they would have liked to, [but] this could be an opportunity for them to rejuvenate their season, if you like, [in] a new competition [and] to show everyone what they’ve got.”

Jono Gibbes (Clermont head coach): “Ulster have made great progress over the last two years. They have just finished a cycle with a group of experienced players, and, over the last two years, they’ve established another cycle with a younger group. They’ve really created a collective force, and there’s trust between them. Their style is one where it’s all about the team being the core, rather than the ‘individual X Factor’. So, yes, that’ll be a difficult first match.”

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Ulster battle to win at Clermont

Saturday 11th December 2021

7:57 pm (GMT)

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Ulster battle to win at Clermont

Stuart McCloskey scores Ulster's opening try

Ulster Rugby produced an impressive display to win 29-23 against ASM Clermont Auvergne in their opening Heineken Champions Cup Pool A game at Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday.

Scrum-half John Cooney tallied 19 points for Ulster, while winger Damian Penaud notched two superbly taken tries for Clermont.

An ill-disciplined Clermont start saw Ulster race into a nine-point lead via three Cooney penalties with less than a quarter of an hour played.

The Irish province were well on top for large spells in the first half and found their way over the whitewash on 25 minutes as Stuart McCloskey hit a hard line from close range.

Clermont struggled to find their way into the game but an outrageous piece of skill from Penaud saw them notch a try on 34 minutes.

The France international dived into the corner of the in-goal area to gather and touch down from a Tani Vili kick, and a lengthy TMO review deemed the try valid.

Clermont lock Jacobus Van Tonder was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle moments later and Cooney kicked another penalty as the visitors looked to re-establish their control.

But JJ Hanrahan, who kicked 13 points over the course of the game, slotted a penalty in the last action of the first half to send Clermont into the break 19-10 down – a score line which perhaps wasn’t reflective of Ulster’s dominance.

Clermont came out firing in the second half and Penaud scored his second try of the game with some more sublime skill, kicking over the line and producing electric pace to dive onto the ball.

Hanrahan’s conversion saw Clermont move to within two points, and the fly-half put the hosts ahead with just under 20 minutes to go with another penalty.

But Ulster were not disheartened, and a break by Michael Lowry resulted in the full-back being tackled just short of the line. His offload was deemed to have been deliberately knocked on by Cheik Tiberghien and the Clermont man was sent to the bin.

Further investigation by the TMO revealed that Nick Timoney managed to squeeze over the line just before the whistle went, confirming a score which put the away side back in front.

Cooney converted before nailing a penalty from some distance to extend Ulster’s lead to nine points on 73 minutes, and they held on for a well-deserved victory.

Hanrahan slotted a penalty in the last action of the game to hand Clermont a losing bonus point.

Ulster host Northampton Saints in Round 2 on Friday, while Clermont visit Sale Sharks in a week’s time.

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