ULSTER 39 CLERMONT 32
Ulster kept their European Champions Cup hopes alive with a bonus point victory over French fancies Clermont in Pool Five.
In a thrilling encounter which produced nine tries, Ulster held on to take the victory nad move second in the table with Bordeaux and Exeter still to play on Sunday.
Importantly for group leaders, Clermont, they picked up two losing bonus points to keep them three ahead at the top.
Next week’s return game in Clermont will be critical in terms of how the group shapes up for the shakedown in January.
Ulster were left stunned just after Clermont kicked off and number eight Peceli Yato went over for the opening try after a minute. Morgan Parra converted.
But Ulster bounced back and five minutes later Luke Marshall went over for a try and Paddy Jackson converted to level matters.
A Parra penalty inched Clermont back in front but Ulster were soon ahead again.
Ruan Pienaar’s crossfield kick was caught by Tommy Bowe and he offloaded to Iain Henderson who galloped over for the unconverted try.
A Jackson penalty made it 15-10 after 21 minutes, but the visitors kept plugging away and after another Parra penalty, fullback Scott Spedding went over for an unconverted try to put the French side into an 18-15 lead.
The lead changes hands once again when Paddy Jackson showed great skill to chip, chase and dribble his way over, adding the extras to send Ulster in at the break 22-18 ahead.
The second half proved as entertaining as the first.
Marshall crossed for his second and Ulster’s fourth try, securing the bonus point and then Charles Piutau went over and Jackson’s touchline conversion plus a penalty saw the home side into a 36-18 lead.
Clermont came back strongly and tries from Nick Abendanon and captain Damien Chouly sxecured a try scoring bonus, but with both conversions from Parra good they had a losing bonus as well.
Ulster had Rodney Ah You sin-binned with six minutes to go, but they managed the game out to take a deserved victory.