As the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 edges ever closer, we detail each side’s path to the knockout stage, selecting key moments, players and stats.

We continue our delve into the 16 teams with a look at Ulster Rugby…

Path to the Round of 16

Ulster advanced to the knockout stage after picking up four wins from four games to finish second in Pool A.

19 points from the boot of John Cooney helped the Irish province to an impressive 29-23 victory at ASM Clermont Auvergne in Round 1, before they survived a late rally by Northampton Saints to claim a 27-22 home win in Round 2.

Ulster outclassed Northampton again in Round 3 as Michael Lowry scored a try brace in a 24-20 success at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, a result which confirmed their passage to the Round of 16.

A lofty finish in their pool was sealed as they picked up a fourth win in Round 4, holding off Clermont’s dramatic late surge to triumph 34-31 at Kingspan Stadium.

Key moment

Ulster produced an excellent display at Clermont in Round 1 but trailed the TOP 14 side heading into the final quarter of an hour.

However, Nick Timoney squeezed over the line for a score which looked set to be ruled out for a knock-on, only for a TMO review to discover that the ball came off a Clermont hand.

With the try awarded, the momentum swung back in Ulster’s favour and they held on for a victory which would kickstart an outstanding pool stage campaign.

Key player

Full-back Lowry caught the eye with his lightening pace and nifty footwork, and his tries in the latter stages of the pool stage were crucial to his team’s progression to the Round of 16.

In addition to his double at Northampton in Round 3, the 23-year-old dotted down for Ulster’s second try against Clermont, and over the course of the pool stage he made more metres (563), line breaks (8) and beat more defenders (23) than any other player.

Key stats

  • Lowry, Timoney, Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen and James Hume all made over 40 carries during the pool stage – only six other players managed more than 40.
  • No team has made more carries (559) or beaten more defenders (105) than Ulster.
  • Along with Lowry, Hume (379) also sits in the top three players when it comes to metres made during the pool stage.
  • Hume also made the joint most offloads (7) during the pool stage and was second behind Lowry in terms of defenders beaten (18).
  • Timoney made 56 tackles over Ulster’s four games – more than any other player in the competition so far. Rob Herring (46) has made the third most.

Round of 16 opponents

Ulster travel to last season’s winners Stade Toulousain in the first leg on April 9 before welcoming the TOP 14 outfit to Kingspan Stadium a week later.

Toulouse finished seventh in Pool B – they beat Cardiff Rugby 39-7 at Cardiff Arms Park before losing 30-22 at Wasps.