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Ulster Squeeze Past Bath In Tight Champions Cup Opener

ulster bath

Bath 16-17 Ulster 

Ulster were made to work for it but their undefeated streak against Bath remains intact after a hard-fought victory at The Recreation Ground this afternoon. 

It could well have been the perfect opening for Ulster when Billy Burns knocked down a kick just a minute into the game. The out-half, who was lining out against his brother Freddie at full-back for Bath, unfortunately, knocked the ball on before he could attempt to touch down.

It was Bath who then took over controlling the momentum and territory for the opening twenty minutes of the match. The direct running in particular of Jamie Roberts seemed to be causing Ulster problems early one.

However, they held strong in the face of adversity and just when it looked like Bath were going to open the scoring, Iain Henderson, on his return to take up the role of Ulster captain permanently, turned over the ball in front of his own posts. Much to the delight of the travelling Ulster contingent.

As Ulster attempted to exit their own half following the turnover, John Cooney had an attempted kick blocked down. However, the scrum-half replied perfectly a minute later blocking down as Bath attempted to exit their own half.

The ball bounced into Cooney’s path before he ran in under the posts to give Ulster the lead. Cooney then nailed the conversion to leave the score at 7-0 after 15 minutes.

Two penalty attempts from Freddie Burns after 25 and 30 minutes respectively brought Bath back into the game leaving just a point between the sides.

Ulster came back again though and could have stretched their lead to four at the break only for John Cooney to miss the easiest of kicks in front of the posts.

One point continued to be the difference between the two sides after 55 minutes with Ulster coming close to extending their lead only for a knock-on just shy of the try-line.

Both sides made mistakes in the freezing cold conditions as the game seemed to turn into a bit of a mess.

However, it was soon a second try for Ulster when Rob Lyttle found himself on the end of a Will Addison kick that seemed to catch the Bath defence off guard during a scrappy phase of play. Cooney converted brilliantly to leave Ulster ahead 14-6.

Their joy was short-lived though as Bath hit back almost immediately when Gabriel Hamer-Webb marked his introduction to European rugby with a wonderful try following his first touch of the game.

All of a sudden, the atmosphere and intensity had risen as the game entered the final twenty minutes with just one point separating the sides.

The Bath turnaround seemed complete with 13 minutes remaining when Rhys Priestland slotted home a difficult penalty to put Bath in front for the first time in the game as the noise levels once again increased.

A grandstand finish ensued with 10 minutes to go as Cooney wrestled the lead back for Ulster with his twelfth point of the match.

Ulster looked to have finally fought off the Bath challenge with a great turnover in the scrum with only three minutes of play remaining, however, Bath were handed a lifeline. They couldn’t make it count though as that man, Marcell Coetzee, brilliantly turned over the ball to secure a brilliant Ulster win away from home.

However, that still wasn’t the end as Bath amounted one final attack only for Jacob Stockdale, who was quiet throughout, to make a game-winning interception in the 82nd minute of play. It was a steal more valuable than many of the tries he has scored to date.

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