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After an enthralling first leg in France, Ulster Rugby return to the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night for their Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 second leg against defending champions Stade Toulousain.
Last Saturday, the Irish province dug out a 26-20 victory at Le Stadium as Rob Baloucoune’s try hat trick gave them a slender lead ahead of this weekend’s return fixture.
Ulster boast a positive home record against the five-time European champions, with four wins and two losses in European competition.
The game kicks off at 20:00 UK and Irish time and is live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Lightning speed ⚡️
Who are you backing in a foot race? 👀#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/YWcSDBAqgw
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 13, 2022
Other key stats:
- Ulster have won their last five games in the Heineken Champions Cup, only once since lifting the trophy in 1999 have they enjoyed a longer winning run in the competition (W6 in 2013/14); however, their five victories have all come by fewer than seven points.
- Ulster have won four of their last five home matches against TOP 14 opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup (L1), however, their solitary loss during that run came against Toulouse (22-29 December 2020).
- Toulouse have lost their last two games in the Heineken Champions Cup, the first time they have lost consecutive games in the competition since a run of five defeats between December 2015 and October 2016.
- Toulouse have won each of their last three away games against Irish opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup, including their 29-22 win in Ulster in December 2020, after winning only three of their previous 13 trips (L10)
- Toulouse boast a 96% lineout success rate in the Heineken Champions Cup (47/49), the best rate of any team; they are also one of just five teams yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (11/11).
- Robert Baloucoune (Ulster) carried for 207 metres against Toulouse in the 1st leg, the most by any player in the Heineken Champions Cup last weekend, scoring three tries. He’s averaged 11.8m per carry in the competition in 2021/22, the best rate of the 54 players to make 30+carries, just ahead of teammate Mike Lowry.
- Ulster’s Michael Lowry has made nine line breaks in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, the most of any player, and has made over 100 carry metres more than any other player (666). He is also the only player to have beaten 20+ defenders this season (26).
- Rory Arnold (Toulouse) recorded 12 line out takes last weekend, a joint-high for any player in a Heineken Champions Cup game this season, including four lineout steals. This is the only time a player has stolen more than two opposition throws in a game this season.
- Thomas Ramos (Toulouse) made seven successful offloads against Ulster last weekend. This is the only time a player has made more than five offloads in a Heineken Champions Cup game; he has made ten offloads overall this season, the most of any back.
Ulster back-row forward Duane Vermuelen: “We are in touching distance but not there yet. This weekend is another big game for us and hopefully we can turn up and get our double on Toulouse.”
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Stade Toulousain set up a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Munster Rugby as a late Antoine Dupont try saw them beat Ulster Rugby by a solitary point on aggregate following a 30-23 win at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.
Ulster came into Round of 16 second leg in front and led for much of the game against the reigning champions thanks to Ethan McIlroy’s try double, with John Cooney’s 13 points putting them within sight of the last eight.
But tries from Thomas Ramos and Romain Ntamack kept Toulouse in touch before Tom O’Toole was sent off for Ulster, with Dupont striking on 75 minutes and Ramos adding the conversion to take his match tally to 20 points and send his side into the next round.
Toulouse hit the front early on as full-back Ramos nudged a penalty, and Ulster would suffer a blow from the restart as wing Rob Baloucoune was yellow-carded for taking a player out in the air.
But it would be 14 versus 14 moments later as Toulouse wing Dimitri Delibes was too sent to the sin bin for an illegal tip tackle.
The home crowd are loving it as Ethan McIlroy scores a worldie to put @UlsterRugby 43-40 ahead on aggregate at HT 🙌
Can they hold on or will @StadeToulousain keep hitting back?#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/PcdtCafPNl
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 16, 2022
And Ulster then scored the game’s first try through wing McIlroy, centre James Hume with some lovely footwork to tee up his teammate out wide, scrum-half Cooney’s conversion extending their aggregate lead to 10 points.
Ramos reduced that advantage with a second penalty on 13 minutes, but Cooney responded with a three-pointer of his own five minutes later.
Fly-half Ntamack was the catalyst for Toulouse’s first try on 21 minutes, streaking clear from halfway and exploiting a three-on-one to send Ramos over.
Ntamack then scored the visitors’ second try himself, intercepting and producing the pace to get over from just inside the Ulster half on 26 minutes.
But McIlroy brilliantly claimed a cross-field kick before dotting down for his second score in the closing minutes of the first half, sending his side into the break ahead on aggregate.
Heartbreak for Ulster 💔
Toulouse go through to the next round of the Champions Cup… pic.twitter.com/23swleJ35d
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 16, 2022
The two sides slugged away in the early stages of the second half, Ulster registering the first points as Cooney nudged his second penalty of the evening from in front of the posts.
Toulouse replied with another Ramos three-pointer on 64 minutes, and moments later Ulster were left monumental task to hold onto their lead as replacement Tom O’Toole was sent off for a high tackle.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Ulster grabbed the next points through another Cooney effort from the tee on 68 minutes as the home crowd implored their side to see out the remaining minutes.
Toulouse stuttered in attack for much of the game but produced the cutting edge when it mattered as scrum-half Dupont sliced through and dotted down next to the posts, Ramos’ conversion edging the visitors ahead on aggregate.
There would be no late recovery for Ulster, and Toulouse marched into the quarter-finals after a gripping game in Belfast.
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