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All the stats point to Ulster Rugby’s home clash with ASM Clermont Auvergne in Pool A on Saturday being a Heineken Champions Cup classic.
Ulster have won 10 of their last 11 home games in the competition, while Clermont, who need a victory to be sure of progressing to the Round of 16, have triumphed in their last four Heineken Champions Cup away fixtures.
The match kicks off at 17:30 at Kingspan Stadium (UK and Irish time) with coverage provided by BT Sport and beIN Sports.
Other key facts:
- Ulster host Clermont for the fourth time in the Heineken Champions Cup, having won the previous three encounters – all by a margin of seven points or fewer.
- Ulster’s only defeat in their last 11 home Heineken Champions Cup fixtures came against French opposition; 29-20 to Stade Toulousain in 2020/21.
- Ulster’s last six home games in the competition have been won by seven points or fewer.
- Ulster (55.2%) have enjoyed the most possession of any side in the Heineken Champions Cup this season and sit second in the carries per game stats with 133. Only Leinster (138) have averaged more.
- Victory in Belfast would match Clermont’s longest away winning streak, set during the 2011/12 and 2012/13 campaigns.
- Ulster duo Michael Lowry (453) and James Hume (317) and Clermont’s Alivereti Raka (308) are the only players to carry the ball for 300+ metres in the Heineken Champions Cup this season; Raka’s average of 14 metres per carry is the best of any player to run with the ball on 20+ occasions this season.
Mike Lowry + @Rob_Baloucoune + @_jume12 🤝 @IrishRugby
How good will it be to see these @UlsterRugby stars in the @SixNationsRugby? 😍#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/lMLwdKafb4
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 19, 2022
Ulster coach Roddy Grant told The42: “Personally, it doesn’t matter who we play next. They are all good teams and you have to play them at some stage. There are more things to worry about in life and this job. We just need to concentrate on winning our game.”
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Ulster Rugby survived a late ASM Clermont Auvergne comeback to run out 34-31 winners at Kingsholm Stadium on Saturday.
The hosts earned a second successive bonus point after scoring five tries, with hooker Rob Herring dotting down twice, as the Irish province ended the pool stage with a 100% win record.
Having gone 34-12 down in the second half, Clermont responded with three late tries through Jacobus Van Tonder, Alivereti Raka and Judicael Cancoriet, with Ulster managing to hold out for the win.
It was an unhappy Ulster reunion for current Clermont director of rugby Jono Gibbes, who left the United Rugby Championship side in 2018, as his men failed to secure a place in the Round of 16 and will now need help from other results to qualify.
Unbeaten @UlsterRugby hold off a late comeback from @ASMOfficiel 💪#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/GwLmbvxLcF
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 22, 2022
Herring opened the scoring for the hosts in the eighth minute, coming out of an Ulster maul to dot down for his second Heineken Champions Cup try of the season.
Morgan Parra quickly responded for the visitors with a penalty to get Clermont on the board.
The 33-year-old then put Gibbes’ side 6-5 ahead after they won a scrum penalty.
Mike Lowry put Ulster back ahead as the full-back showed sheer explosiveness to burst through the Clermont defence – escaping a Parra tackle to go over in the corner.
The boot of Perra saw Clermont regain the advantage, kicking two more penalties for a 12-10 lead.
However, a yellow card for Raka gave Ulster the man advantage as the Clermont winger was sent to the sin bin.
Ulster hooker Herring then scored his second try just before half-time, breaking from another Ulster maul to dot down, with Nathan Doak adding the extras to put the Irish province 17-12 up at the interval.
Doak, making his second European start, gave the hosts their first points after the break with a penalty before Duane Vermeulen used his strength to power over from close range and secured a bonus point for Ulster.
Robert Baloucoune then gave Ulster their fifth try of the evening after he was released by a long, floating pass by Billy Burns, who then added the extras for the Irish province for a 34-12 lead.
Clermont then replied with a fantastic try as replacement Damian Penaud, Cheikh Tiberghien and Lucas Dessaigne all combined to release Van Tonder for his first Heineken Champions Cup try of the season.
The gap was then closed to 10 points as Raka finished off another fantastic team try for Clermont, with replacement Camille Lopez converting.
Tension then rose even further among the Ulster fanbase at the Kingsholm Stadium as Cancoriet dotted down following a Clermont maul, with another Lopez conversion making it a three-point game.
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