Ulster snatch Biarritz victory in Heineken Cup

Ulster gave their Heineken Cup chances a boost when they snatched a last-gasp 9-6 victory over Biarritz in the Heineken Cup at Ravenhill.


With the wing behind them Biarritz led 0-6 at the break but then Ulster fly half Ian Humphreys kicked three penalties – the last of which was almost the last act of the game – to snatch the lead for the Irishmen.


Ian Humphreys was the last-gasp hero in Belfast as Ulster kept their Heineken Cup hopes alive with the win over Biarritz Olympique.


With the scores tied at 6-apiece and time running out at Ravenhill, last season’s beaten finalists looked set to take control of Pool 4 before Humphreys altered the outlook of the group with one swing of his left boot.


The former Leicester fly-half somehow kept his composure under intense pressure to slot a 51-metre penalty with less than two minutes remaining.


The result sees Ulster join Biarritz on 17 points at the top of the pool, with Humphreys and co now knowing that a better result than the Basque outfit next weekend will see them reach the knockout stages for the first time since their famous Heineken Cup winning season of 1999.


Although the weather prevented a much-talked about match up developing into a classic Heineken Cup encounter, both sides showed just how much the continent’s greatest club competition means to them by refusing to give an inch throughout the 80 minutes.


Ulster began brightly but it was Biarritz who carried a 6-0 advantage into the second half courtesy of two well-taken penalties from the ever-reliable Dimitri Yachvili.


The veteran scrum-half cleared the cross bar by fully 20 metres with his first attempt from just inside the Ulster 10-metre line, while his second effort on the stroke of half time was equally assured.


That first-half scoreline failed to tell the real story, however, with the visitors unable to create a single try-scoring opportunity despite playing with a substantial wind at their backs.


Instead it was Ulster who dominated territory and possession, with Adam D’Arcy coming close to a try after a flowing backline move, but the driving rain and that horrific west to east wind held them back.


Humphreys only attempted one shot at goal throughout the first half despite being awarded a flurry of penalties. Having seen his 30-metre attempt come up short early on, the Heineken Man of the Match kicked to the corner or allowed his forwards to tap and go for the remainder of the half.


That attitude understandably changed after the break, with Humphreys lining up a penalty attempt from fully 55 metres out eight minutes into the second period. The 28-year-old succeeded with room to spare before adding a second penalty nine minutes later to level the scores.


Biarritz held out and even created pressure of their own as the wind and rain died down later in the half but that simply set the scene for Humphreys to steal the show.


It was a deserved win for Brian McLaughlin’s men and a great reward for a 10,500-strong crowd who were nothing short of outstanding throughout.


The Heineken Cup is about more than just incredible rugby. It’s about magic moments, amazing atmosphere’s and the elation and despair that accompany them both. The latest installment of Ulster versus Biarritz had them all in spades.


Final Score Ulster (0) 9 Biarritz (6) 6


Scorers


Ulster
Pens: Humphreys 3


Biarritz
Pens: Yachvili 2


Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)


Teams


Ulster Rugby: A D’Arcy, A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli, I Humphreys, R Pienaar, T Court, R Best [capt], B Botha, J Muller, D Tuohy, S Ferris, W Faloon, P Wannenburg.


Replacements: N Brady, B Young, D Fitzpatrick, T Barker, C Henry, P Marshall, I Whitten, D McIlwaine


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