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Ulster aiming to maintain winning run

Thursday 5th December 2019

11:25 am (GMT)

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John Cooney

John Cooney of Ulster Rugby breaks away during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 match between Ulster Rugby and ASM Clermont Auvergne

Ulster Rugby can make it three wins from as many Heineken Champions Cup matches this season with a victory over Harlequins in Pool 3 on Saturday, with kick-off at 15:15 GMT – live on BT Sport – from the Kingspan Stadium.

The Irish province defeated both Bath and Clermont in their first two matches while Harlequins beat their fellow English side but lost to the 2019 Challenge Cup winners.

Key quotes

John Cooney (Ulster): “Last year we went away to Scarlets and put in a huge performance, and then beat them at home as well, which really gave us a lot of momentum. If we can do the same, then that will put us in a brilliant position.We have good momentum now and it is important that we continue it and that we play with confidence.” 

Ross Chisholm (Harlequins): “That win gives us a lot faith and some momentum as we go into Ulster.”

Key Facts

  • Ulster and Harlequins have faced each other on five previous occasions, with the Irish province winning the last three meetings.
  • Ulster have won each of their last six Heineken Champions Cup matches, with five of them coming by five points or fewer.
  • Harlequins come into this match aiming to win back-to-back Champions Cup matches for the first time since 2014.
  • The English side are one of five yet to miss a kick at goal this season.
  • Ulster will be without the suspended Will Addison, and he has made the most carries of any back this season.

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Cooney kicks last-gasp penalty to deny Harlequins

Saturday 7th December 2019

5:39 pm (GMT)

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Cooney kicks last-gasp penalty to deny Harlequins

John Cooney kicked a nerveless 79th minute penalty to give Ulster Rugby a dramatic 25-24 victory over Harlequins in Heineken Champions Cup Pool 3 on Saturday afternoon.

In a match that swung back and forth in front of an enthralled Belfast crowd, it was the Ulster scrum-half that did the late damage from the kicking tee to consolidate the Irish province’s position on top of Pool 3.

The hosts opened the scoring inside the first 10 minutes of the match as John Cooney stepped up and slotted over a penalty after Harlequins gave away a penalty at the breakdown.

Just three minutes later, Ulster strayed offside and that gave Marcus Smith the chance to level the scores and he did just that.

It took 25 minutes for the first try of the match and it went to the visitors. Harlequins had dominated territory and finally converted it into points after an aggressive line from Alex Dombrandt, allowing the No.8 to break two tackles before scoring at the posts.

Seven minutes before half-time, Ulster would hit back. They had penalty advantage in the Quins 22 and with that, Billy Burns played a superb cross-field kick to Stuart McCloskey who handed a lovely offload inside to Sean Reidy and he dived over the try line.

Cooney’s conversion levelled the scores and that is how it would remain at the interval.

It only took three minutes after the restart for Ulster to go back into the lead. The Irish province worked left through the hands with the overlap, finding McCloskey who barged past the final Harlequins defender and dived over at the corner for his second try of the match.

Harlequins would hit back in emphatic fashion just before the hour mark. They worked the driving maul really well and found Elia Elia who powered over the line.

Four minutes later, Elia had a second try in remarkable circumstances. Dombrandt made a huge interception at his own five-metre line, sprinting 60 metres clear and after a host of brilliant offloads, found Elia again who sauntered over the try line and put Quins nine points ahead.

It was another driving maul – this time from Ulster – that got the Irish province back into the match. The line-out set up the maul and Harlequins had no response, with Adam McBurney touching down.

And as the clock struck the 79th minute, Tevita Cavubati inexplicably came out of the line and tackled the man without the ball, giving Cooney a chance to nudge Ulster ahead. He did just that in nerveless fashion, kicking between the posts and clinching the victory as well as four points for the Pool 3 leaders.

The sides will meet again next week in what could be another Heineken Champions Cup classic at Twickenham Stoop.

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