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Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland knows that a win against Bath Rugby on Saturday will seal his side’s spot in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals for the second consecutive season.
The Irish province sit second in Pool 3 having been beaten by ASM Clermont Auvergne in Round 5 and dropped below the Challenge Cup winners as a result.
- If Ulster win they will be guaranteed a quarter-final place for the seventh time in their history either as Pool 3 winners or as the best runner-up (ranked No 6) depending on the result of the Harlequins v Clermont match.
- Ulster have won 12 of their last 13 home games in the Heineken Champions Cup, including each of their last eight in a row. Their most recent defeat at the Kingspan Stadium was in a Round 6 fixture against Bordeaux-Bègles in 2016/17.
- Bath have lost their last six games, their worst run in European competition, however, four of those defeats have come by margins of fewer than seven points.
- Bath have lost eight of their nine away games in the tournament against Irish provinces, a solitary victory against Leinster in 2005/06 the exception.
SQUAD UPDATE | Matt Faddes will not be fit for this week’s game versus Bath. Will Addison and Marty Moore continue to be monitored.https://t.co/s25tKhz0jC
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) January 15, 2020
- Ulster are the only side yet to be shown a card of any colour this season, while Bath have been shown just one yellow.
- All 10 of Bath’s tries this season have originated from a scrum (2) or line out (8).
- Ulster have retained possession from 21% of their kicks in play, the leading rate, while Bath have retained just 10% of their kicks.
- Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Iain Henderson and Luke Marshall have all played the full 400 minutes to date, and no other club has as many players yet to miss a minute of action.
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A stirring second half display saw Ulster make sure of progress to the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup but winless Bath made them work hard for their 22-15 success in Belfast.
The sides were locked to 7-7 at half-time but Ulster rarely looked back after a stunning start to the second period when a superb right flank move saw full-back Will Addison send winger Robert Baloucoune in at the corner.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) January 18, 2020
Bath did the cut the deficit back to four points with a Freddie Burns penalty but Ulster had the perfect response as Addison this time turned try scorer with a strong left touchline finish after more crisp handling.
Bath made sure it went down to the wire when Ross Batty plunged over with 15 minutes remaining but he then turned villain as he received a red card seven minutes from time for a high tackle on John Cooney and Billy Burns clinched victory with the resulting penalty.
Ulster started in fine style and there was no surprise when they landed the opening blow as no. 8 Marcel Coetzee showed his strength from close range after a drive from a line-out. Cooney’s conversion made it 7-0 and it looked pretty straightforward for the Irish side at that stage.
But Bath seemed determined to avoid losing all six Pool game in European competition for the first time as they stuck gamely to the task.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) January 18, 2020
The visitors forward dug in well and after a spell of pressure fly-half Freddie Burns’s angled kick to the corner bounced away from the covering Jacob Stockdale and straight into the arms of Bath winger Ruaridh McConnochie for the touchdown. Burns’s angled conversion took the sides into the break level at 7-7.
It was a decent effort from Bath who had been down to 14-men for a ten minute spell when flanker Tom Ellis was sin-binned for a blatant push on the supporting John Cooney as he looked to add the finishing touches to a fine break by Coetzee.
Ulster got into gear after the break though and were deserving of their victory in a thrilling contest.