Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 – Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing

Rampant Ulster stormed to an impressive bonus-point win over Racing on a raucous Investec Champions Cup night at Kingspan Stadium.

Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 - Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing
Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 – Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing

Ulster saved their best for Europe and ended a three-game losing streak with a four-try, five-star display.

Nick Timoney scored in each half, with Stuart McCloskey and Matty Rea also crossing for the hosts.

Janick Tarrit scored two late tries for Racing after Nolann Le Garrec’s first-half try.

A lot was expected from Racing’s star-studded team under former Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster.

And while they were dangerous on the break, they gave possession away cheaply and conceded 12 penalties as they slipped to back-to-back defeats in the competition.

In contrast, Ulster came out with real purpose and conviction and shrugged off the disappointment of losing their last three games to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bath to take a positive step towards desired qualification for the last 16.

Despite recent defeats, they felt they were not far away and kept faith in the expansive attacking principles that they have carried into this season.

The quick-tap penalty was a tactic that reaped rewards leading to three of their four tries, while good defence denied Racing a four-try bonus point that could be crucial when Pool 2 is completed in January.

Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 - Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing
Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 – Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing

Mistakes flowed from both teams, but it was high tempo, hugely entertaining rugby and with the home crowd getting behind them, Ulster raised their game.

They bossed territory and possession – Racing didn’t land a footstep inside the Ulster ’22’ until 16 minutes had elapsed.

And as a reward for owning the ball for long spells, Ulster were able to force their French visitors into mistakes with James Hume and McCloskey carrying well and finding pockets of space.

Line-out woes aside, the home side profited from good set-piece play and their first two tries came from quick five metre tap penalties from Timoney and McCloskey.

Ulster got the maul rolling early off the first one, and Timoney dotted down for the opening try after four minutes.

There was no stopping McCloskey from a couple of metres out after another quick tap and go leaving Ulster 14-0 up entering the second quarter.

Racing looked dangerous on the counter-attack and scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec thought he had brought his team back into it, only for the try to be ruled out for crossing.

Racing still possessed huge threat when the ball was turned over and a superb cross-field kick out to Juan Imhoff ignited a brilliant break. When the ball was recycled, Le Garrec was there to dot down for a try his personal effort deserved.

Both sides displayed an appetite for running the ball from deep and a missed pass by Michael Lowry to Stockdale, then Timoney to John Cooney, left Ulster inches away. When the ball was recycled, a grateful Matty Rea had the easiest job of the night to fall over the line for a third Ulster try.

Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 - Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing
Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 – Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing

World Cup winners on show

Racing fans waited a long time to see South African legend Siya Kolisi make his debut for the club and similarly, Ulster fans were keen to see the two-time World Cup winning captain in Belfast.

Yet he had minimal impact in the first half with Ulster deserving their 21-5 half-time lead.

Kolisi’s Springbok team-mate Steven Kitsoff put in a serious shift playing 70 minutes plus, as he savoured his first win for his new team.

Dan McFarland’s side had blown half-time leads in recent weeks but this time they were in mood waste the platform they had built for themselves.

Timoney grabbed the fourth try and resulting bonus point five minutes after the restart with a try similar to his first, coming off another tap and go, with Racing having answers to the marauding Ulster forwards.

Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 - Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing
Investec Champions Cup: Ulster 31-15 Racing 92 – Ulster grab bonus-point win over Racing

The visitors were always going to have a spell and pounded away at Ulster.

Finally the pressure told when Tarrit picked up from the base of a ruck and rumbled over.

Gilbert missed the conversion leaving Ulster well placed leading 28-10.

Stockdale had his ears pricked all evening, ever alert and quick to read the pass and he almost produced a spectacular 14-point swing just when the visitors thought they were in again.

He picked off Le Garrec’s pass on Ulster’s tryline and bolted for home, but was hauled down around the halfway line by Le Garrec.

Tarrit muscled his way over again for Racing’s third try but another missed conversion left them with a mountain to climb.

It proved too daunting as Ulster held on for a resounding victory they will hope can propel them through a busy and crucial stage of the season.

Ulster: Lowry, Baloucoune, Hume, McCloskey, Stockdale, Burns, Cooney; Kitshoff, Herring, O’Toole; O’Connor, Henderson (capt); Ewers, Timoney, Matty Rea

Replacements: Stewart, O’Sullivan, S Wilson, Treadwell, Sheridan, Doak, Flannery, S Moore

Racing 92: Spring, Arundell, Fickou, Chavancy, Imhoff, Gibert, Le Garrec; Kolingar, Tarrit, Nyakane; Chouzenoux, Rowlands; Woki, Kolisi, Lauret

Replacements: Ben Arous, Gogichashvili, Kharaishvili, Sanconnie, Diallo, Baudonne, Tedder, Tabuavou

Referee: Luke Pearce

Rampant Ulster stormed to an impressive bonus-point win over Racing on a raucous Investec Champions Cup night at Kingspan Stadium. Ulster saved their best for Europe and ended a three-game losing streak with a four-try, five-star display. Nick Timoney scored in each half, with Stuart McCloskey and Matty Rea also crossing for the hosts. Janick…

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