EUROPEAN RUGBY: Ulster emerge narrow winners after scrappy affair with Exeter Chiefs
ULSTER 19 EXETER CHIEFS 18
Ulster kept their Champions Cup hopes alive by the narrowest of margins by registering a vital first win to see off Exeter, whose own European ambitions now look all but over in Pool Five.
In a tense and scrappy encounter which only saw one try, scored by Ulster’s Sean Reidy in the first half, the game ended with a dramatic drop goal shoot-out between Paddy Jackson and Exeter’s Ulsterman Gareth Steenson in the closing minutes.
Steenson first put the Chiefs two points in front with four minutes to go only for Jackson to hit back immediately with a drop goal of his own to put Ulster 19-18 ahead. The game then finished with Steenson going for another drop to snatch the win, but his effort went wide and the Chiefs were left with their losing bonus point.
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Les Kiss’ men made off with four points, though, thanks to Reidy’s try, three penalties, a conversion and that late drop goal from Jackson after the home side had led 10-6 at the break, with Charles Piutau having created the touchdown with a rare moment of creativity in the game.
All the Chiefs’ points came from Steenson’s boot thanks to his drop goal and five earlier penalties, though the result leaves them bottom of Pool Five with Ulster in third and six points behind leaders Clermont.
Exeter kicked off after a minute’s silence in memory of Anthony Foley was observed, with the supporters’ own tribute then following with a rendition of the Fields of Athenry.