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Ulster Rugby will try to get some points on the board in the Heineken Champions Cup as they welcome reigning champions Stade Rochelais on Saturday.
Ulster lost 39-0 to Sale Sharks in Round 1 – while La Rochelle got a 46-12 victory at home against Northampton Saints.
The Pool B match kicks off at 17:30 (UK and Irish time) at RDS Arena in Dublin, and is available to watch on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, France TV, SuperSport and FloRugby.
Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland: “Confidence is a funny thing. It can only take a small thing to re-spark it or it can get knocked by a couple of things that don’t go your way. We have certainly got to find our mojo and get back to doing the things that we are good at which we didn’t see.”
✨ It pays to bring home the points ✨
The @IHGOneRewards Top Points Scorers of Round 1 are Antoine Hastoy, Emiliano Boffelli and Rob Du Preez 🔥
Take your next rugby weekend to a 𝓃𝑒𝓌 level with @IHGHotels 👉 https://t.co/xMkId13pQ0#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/CWFqM21ozy
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 14, 2022
- Ulster were one of two sides not to score a point in Round 1.
- They were the only team in the competition not to have a single kick at goal last week.
- Ulster conceded the joint-most penalties in Round 1 – 16.
- Ulster won their last match 20-13 against Stade Rochelais, which was in the 2017/18 pool stage.
- Stade Rochelais won 14 turnovers against Northampton Saints in Round 1, more than any other team.
- They attempted a round-high four chip kicks and made the most kicking metres (1,117).
- They scored more tries from winning turnovers than any other side – two.
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Ulster Rugby suffered their second successive Heineken Champions Cup Pool B loss on Saturday when they were edged out 29-36 by defending champions Stade Rochelais in a seven-try thriller at the Aviva Stadium.
Ulster, who were whitewashed 39-0 at Sale Sharks last weekend, earned two bonus points thanks to a storming second-half comeback, which brought them all of their 29 points after they had gone in at half-time 29-0 down.
Fly-half Antoine Hastoy was the holders’ star with 26 points via a try, three conversions and five penalties. Brice Dulin and Pierre Bourgarit also touched down for La Rochelle.
As for Ulster, Iain Henderson, John Cooney, Duane Vermeulen and Tom Stewart all scored tries in the second half, with Cooney converting three and kicking a crucial penalty with the clock in the red.
After the tie had been switched to Dublin due to an unfit Kingspan Stadium pitch in Belfast, the tone of the first half was set early on, with La Rochelle happy to go for the posts to punish Ulster’s lack of discipline whenever a penalty was in kicking distance.
By the 24th minute the French side were 12-0 up, with Hastoy kicking four penalties, and then with Ulster captain Henderson in the sin bin, they notched the first try of the game when Hastoy kicked the ball through the Ulster defence to set up Dulin.
Hastoy added another penalty in the 38th minute and a minute later chipped the Ulster defence and touched down when John Cooney couldn’t get the ball under control. Hastoy improved his own try to leave the visitors coasting at the break.
The second half was a different story from the start, with Henderson finishing a good move from a tap-and-go five metres from the La Rochelle line and Cooney converting to put Ulster on the board.
However, the French side responded on 52 minutes, with a messy La Rochelle lineout ending with Bourgarit emerging with the ball and crossing for a try that Hastoy improved.
Ulster hit back, though, in the 59th minute, when scrum-half Cooney finished and converted another well-worked try after the home team went through the phases.
La Rochelle centre Jonathan Danty was yellow-carded in the process and Ulster No.8 Vermeulen capitalised, sprinting down the wing to reach a crosskick and dot it down.
That's more like it from @UlsterRugby 👏
Stuart McCloskey spots Duane Vermeulen on the wing and the South African is able to apply the crucial touch.#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/FikDWn5ymw
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 17, 2022
Hooker Stewart then notched the vital fourth try for Ulster to secure their first bonus point in the 74th minute, before Cooney kicked a penalty in the dying seconds to snatch a second bons point.
Ulster’s next Heineken Champions Cup game will see them travel to France for the reverse fixture against La Rochelle on January 14.
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