ULSTER 22 BORDEAUX 26
Ulster slumped to a fourth straight defeat and suffered a rare home loss in Europe as they ended their Champions Cup pool five campaign beaten by the French visitors.
They had played catch-up for most of the game and although they took the lead briefly midway through the second half, two late penalties gave the French a deserved win.
Ulster have a break until the resumption of the Guinness PRO12 next month - there is a bit of work to be completed if they are to achieve their goal of a top four play-off.
Saturday’s loss in Belfast was nine in 13 for Les Kiss’s side - a statistic they need to start to improve on rapidly.
Bordeaux dominated the first quarter reflecting in a 10-5 advantage.
Ulster started like a team low on confidence and Bordeaux outhalf Ian Madigan gave the visitors a 2-0 lead after two minutes.
Ten minutes later it was 10-0. A scrum near the posts saw Ulster go backwards, scrumhalf Dave Shanahan was emptied and his oppositie number Yoan Lesgourgues had the simple task of going over for the try which Madigan converted.
Ulster’s first meaningful attack was to yield success. A penalty to touch saw Ulster put the drive on and then Shanahan found Paddy Jackson on the blindside and he put captain Andrew Trimble in at the corner for the unconverted try.
But Ulster were on the backfoot immediately after, the scrum was creaking and froom close range, confirmed by the TMO, number eight Marco Tauleigne was awarded the try, Madigan making it 17-5 after 23 minutes.
Ulster’s second meaningful attack yielded another score with pack driving through and departing lock, Franco van der Merwe going over for a the try. Jackson added the extras and there were five points between the sides again.
Nine minures from the break Madigan slotted over a penalty for a 20-12 lead and although Ulster had another good chance following a penalty to touch and another take and drive, they were unable to be as clincial as before and went in at the breaking trailing by eigth points.but it could not be finished.
Just on time, Jackson was put through into a gap by Trimble, but he was just stopped short of the line, but Bordeaux fullback, Geoffrey Cros, was penalised for slowing the game down and was yellow carded. Jackson slotted over the penalty to reduce the arrears to five points going in at the break.
It was no surprise to see Paul Marshall replacing Shanahan at half time and there was a different edge tro Ulster’s game at the start of the second half.
A break by Jackson on the outside led to an eventual penalty - the first lineout and drive made no inroads, a second penalty came but the lineout flopped, however, from the scraps Jackson’s kick across found Charles Piutau but he was caught 10m out.
With Bordeaux back to 15 players the next penalty which came Ulster’s way saw a change of tact - Jackson asking for the tee and the missing the effort from 35m in front of the posts.
Tommy Bowe then made a telling break but was caught by Madigan 10m from the try line.
But Ulster finally got some rewards for their dominance when, on 58 minutes, Marshall fed McCloskey who spun out of a tackle only to be caugth inches from the line. But Darren Cave followed up and slid in to touch the post protector and be awarded the try after TMO review.
Jackson converted to put the home side in front for the first time at 22-20.
However, two penalties from replacement Simon Hickey on 70 and 73 minutes put the French back in front 26-22.
There was one last push from Ulster with a penalty to touch, Bordeaux stopped the initial drve - illegally. There was till time for a final lineout and last play but Ulster were unable to find anything.