Ulster storm into last eight with Challenge Cup success over Harlequins
Ulster will travel to Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday night (8pm) to face Northampton Saints in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final after ruthless dispatching Harlequins.
The English Premiership side decided to rest a host of front line players, but Ulster were clinical at the Stoop scoring eight tries and had effectively killed the tie by the half time whistle after touching down four times in the first 40 minutes.
Ulster scored the game’s opening try with their first visit into the Quins 22 in the eighth minute, following a patient build up of 12 phases winger Rob Baloucoune drove hard at the home defence, he was stopped close to the line but the ball was quickly recycled and centre Stuart McCloskey barged over with John Cooney converting.
Cooney nudged Ulster further ahead four minutes later with a long range penalty after Quins hooker Elia Elia infringed at the breakdown.
Ulster went to their tried and tested driving maul to unlock the Quins defence for the second time.
A high tackle on Baloucoune produced a penalty which Ulster kicked to the corner, the pack got forward momentum from the lineout and hooker Rob Herring touched down at the back of the maul with Cooney converting.
Sean Reidy was the benefit of another driving maul on 26 minutes. Ulster kicked a penalty to touch and the packed propelled the flanker over for their third try and Cooney added the extras.
Ulster skipper Jordi Murphy was yellow carded on 30 minutes for deliberately slowing the ball down and Quins immediately punished the visitors as captain Tom Lawday squeezed over with Brett Herron converting.
Michael Lowry, voted onto the Pro14 Dream Team during the week, showed why on 35 minutes.
Scott Steel put up a high box kick, Lowry took it just inside the Quins half accelerated through a gap and outpaced any would be covering defenders to touch do in the corner. Cooney couldn’t add the conversion but Ulster took a healthy 29-7 advantage into the interval.
Herring’s second try on 56 minutes was a carbon copy of his first, penalty to the corner, drive from the line out and the hooker dotting down from the back of the maul and Cooney converted.
Billy Burns got Ulster’s sixth try on three minutes later, Quins were trying to force passes deep in their own half, the outhalf picked off a poor Herron pass and sprinted under the posts making Cooney’s conversion a formality.
Quins flanker Jack Kenningham got a try on his European debut on 65 minutes after a sustained period of pressure in the Ulster 22 which Herron converted.
Alby Mathewson scored within a minute of arriving on the pitch for Cooney the scrum half finished off a good break from James Hume with Ian Madigan slotting over the conversion.
Sean Reidy profited from James Lang’s knock back to score Ulster’s eighth try. Jacob Stockdale broke down the wing and threw the ball inside, the Scottish centre tried to snatch the pass but just guided it into Reidy’s path and the flanker ran in from close range with Madigan converting.
Replacement prop Jordan Els got a late consolation try for the home side.
Harlequins: T Green, L Northmore, J Lang, P Lasike, N Earle; B Herron, S Steele, S Garcia Botta, E Elia, W Collier; H Tizard, G Hammond: A White, J Kenningham, T Lawday.
Replacements: G Head for Elia 60 mins, J Els for Garcia Botta 60 mins, S Kerrod for Collier 46 mins, T Cavubati for Tizard 67 mins, M Jurevicius for White 67 mins, J Stafford for Steele 69 mins, B Tapuai for Lasike 60 mins, R Chisholm for Northmore 41 mins.
Ulster: M Lowry, R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney, E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor, K Treadwell; S Reidy, J Murphy, N Timoney.
Replacements: J Andrew for Herring 73 mins, A Warwick for O’Sullivan 63 mins, T O’Toole for Moore 57 mins, C Izuchukwu for Treadwell 46 mins, Matty Rea for Izuchukwu 55 mins, A Mathewson for Cooney 65 minutes, I Madigan for Burns 65 mins, E McIlroy for Lowry 67 mins.
Referee: R Poite (France).