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Ulster Rugby host Sale Sharks in Round 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup as both sides seek to secure qualification for the knockout stage on Saturday.
They currently sit side by side in Pool B, just outside the all-important top eight. Sale (ninth) lead Ulster (10th) by two points, courtesy of their single win so far this campaign.
That came in the reverse fixture as they thumped Ulster 39-0 in Round 1, running in six tries at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Pool B match kicks off at 8pm local time at the Kingspan Stadium, and can be watched on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport, and FloRugby.
Ulster Rugby flanker Nick Timoney: “Taking a step back, we are still in a position where we can get in the knockout stages in the league and Champions Cup, so we’ll go into Sale all guns blazing and it will be an exciting home game. I don’t think I’ve played a home game in months, so I’m looking forward to it.”
THE FINAL POOL STAGE ROUND 🚨
And the last chance to qualify…
Which #HeinekenChampionsCup R4 game will you be watching this weekend? pic.twitter.com/KALKTqE1qn
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 18, 2023
- Andrew Warwick and John Andrew have both made a competition-high six guard tackles.
- Ulster have made the fewest metres in the tournament so far (577), beaten the fewest defenders (25), made the fewest clean breaks (three) and offloads (eight).
- Ulster have conceded more penalties at the ruck than any other team (22).
- Jonny Hill has missed more tackles than any other player in the competition (nine).
- Gus Warr is the only player in the tournament to have kicked two 50/22s.
- Rob du Preez has made five break assists with his passing, as many as any other player in the competition (equal to Stade Toulousain’s Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack).
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Ulster secured a place in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 in dramatic fashion as they beat Sale Sharks 22-11 in Belfast on Saturday night.
The hosts got over through Rob Lyttle in the first half before scores from Rob Herring and Duane Vermeulen saw them snatch victory late on at a raucous Kingspan Stadium.
Two Robert du Preez penalties kept Sale in touch before Ben Curry crossed shortly after half-time, but the travelling side faded and were overwhelmed in the closing stages.
Sale flew out of the blocks were on top physically early on, fly-half du Preez nudging their first points on three minutes.
Rob Lyttle opens the scoring for @UlsterRugby at Kingspan Stadium 💪
He gathers a long pass out wide and beats the defender to touch down 👏#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/Opa7p6TogJ
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 21, 2023
But Ulster gained a foothold in the game and were stopped just short of the line on their first visit to Sale’s 22, though an infringement from visiting prop Bevan Rodd saw him yellow-carded.
Ulster squandered the opportunity to score from the resulting penalty but notched the game’s first try moments later as wing Lyttle finished clinically after a flowing move.
However, scrum-half Nathan Doak couldn’t convert and du Preez put Sale back in front with his second penalty before Rodd returned.
Sale’s excellence at the breakdown looked like it would see them take that lead into the break, but a scrum penalty allowed Doak to slot from the tee on 38 minutes and put Ulster 8-6 up.
There would be a nightmare start to the second half for Ulster, though, as Doak was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on before Sale hooker Ewan Ashman and flanker Curry combined brilliantly down the blindside to send the latter over in the corner.
Listen to the noise in Belfast! ⚡️
It's Duane Vermeulen who crashes over the line for @UlsterRugby.#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/E58ROXaDgC
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 21, 2023
But Ulster survived the remainder of Doak’s sin bin without conceding, and went on the offensive when back up to their full complement, getting over the whitewash twice in quick succession – only to be held up on both occasions.
But they finally got their second try on 61 minutes as replacement hooker Herring peeled off a maul and powered over.
Scrum-half John Cooney, on for Doak following his sin bin, added the extras to move Ulster four points clear, and the hosts would see out the remainder of the game in style.
With Sale flanker Jono Ross sent to the sin bin amid relentless pressure, Ulster grabbed a third try as No.8 Vermeulen burrowed over following a pick-and-go.
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