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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 13 December, 2019
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It’s back, baby!

Gloucester and Toulouse might have officially got the Champions Cup underway last night, but for the Irish provinces, European rugby truly returns today.

Leinster and Munster both get their campaigns underway later today, while Connacht will have to wait until tomorrow, but first up it’s Ulster who travel to face Bath at The Rec in a game that already feels pivotal before the first ball is kicked in Pool 3.

Kick-off is at 1pm. We’ll have the team news in a moment.

TEAM NEWS: We’ll start with the visitors. Five changes to the side which lost in Thomond last Saturday — Henderson, Addison, Coetzee, Rea and Burns all start in a strong-looking side.

Ulster

15. Will Addison
14. Rob Lyttle
13. Luke Marshall
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Billy Burns
9. John Cooney

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rob Herring
3. Marty Moore
4. Iain Henderson (captain)
5. Sam Carter
6. Matthew Rea
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Marcell Coetzee

TEAM NEWS: From Bath’s perspective, they have the luxury of welcoming back three of England’s World Cup runners-up. Sam Underhill, Jonathan Joseph and Ruaridh McConnochie all start.

Bath

15. Freddie Burns
14. Semesa Rokoduguni
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Jamie Roberts
11. Ruaridh McConnochie
10. Rhys Priestland
9. Will Chudley

1. Beno Obano
2. Tom Dunn
3. Will Stuart
4. Josh McNally
5. Charlie Ewels (captain)
6. Mike Williams
7. Sam Underhill
8. Zach Mercer

Replacements:

16. Jack Walker
17. Lewis Boyce
18. Christian Judge
19. Elliott Stooke
20. Josh Bayliss
21. Chris Cook
22. Max Wright
23. Gabe Hamer-Webb 

Here come the teams. Just about ready to go.

KICK OFF: Billy Burns gets us underway

2Mins

Oooof! Big moments from both sides within the opening 60 seconds. First, Rokoduguni gets up above Addison to win aerial possession with authority. But in the next phase, Luke Marshall charges out of the line and smashes Priestland, although he knocks the ball forward in doing so.

It squirts towards the Bath in-goal area, with Billy Burns in chase, but play is brought back for the scrum.

4Mins

MISSED PENALTY: Sam Carter is pinged at the breakdown for not rolling away which gives Priestland the chance to get the opening points on the board. He pulls the kick left and wide though.

6Mins

Ulster bring play up to the halfway line and have a chance to play it out through the backs. Addison goes on a slaloming run, dodging a tackle or two before he’s brought to ground. Coetzee carries into contact as Ulster make further ground, but he tries to ship it out the back door to Matty Rea and it’s knocked on.

7Mins

A glimpse there of what Bath will try to do with any broken play — as soon as the ball was lost forward from Ulster, they moved it quickly through the hands to get it out to Rokoduguni to see what he can create. Addison gets his positioning right to clear up the kick.

8Mins

Substitution: Big blow for Ulster early on as Jack McGrath goes off holding his wrist. Looks like it might be a recurrence of the same injury that was bothering him last week in Thomond. Eric O’Sullivan is on to replace him. 

10Mins

HUGE TURNOVER! Iain Henderson has just won a massive moment for Ulster. Bath kick a penalty to touch to give themselves great position inside the Ulster 22, and Jamie Roberts is one of the first men up to make yards with a big carry. But as Bath near the line, Henderson gets his body into position and Bath are pinged for holding on to the ball.

12Mins

Bath come again, trying to bludgeon a way through the Ulster defence, which is standing firm for now. When Bath do go wide, the pass is loose, and Addison is up like a light to tackle Rokoduguni before he can make any ground.

Flag 14Mins

TRY ULSTER! Bath 0-7 Ulster (Cooney, 14′)

Ulster lead! John Cooney has his opposite number Will Chudley under all sorts of pressure and when Chudley tries to put up a high ball, Cooney is right there to block it down. He wins the race for possession and then the ball pops up nicely, allowing him to run it in under the posts.

He adds the extra himself and Ulster have an early 7-0 lead.

16Mins

Another smashing piece of play by John Cooney who is alive to the opportunity when Bath knock a lineout forward. He scoops up possession and sees the gap, sprinting through it to make 20 or 25 yards of territory.

19Mins

Will Addison keeps popping up for Ulster. He’s involved in the initial break down the left wing, as the visitors drive towards the 22, and then drifts back infield to get involved again a few phases later. He tries to unlock the defence with a triple skip pass to Rob Lyttle but it’s correctly called forward.

23Mins

Again, Addison gets up well to claim a box kick and then hits the ground running, but once more, Ulster’s off-loading game lets them down and it’s spilled forward.

25Mins

Stuart McCloskey is pinged for a high tackle on Underhill on the half-way line, and can’t really have too many complaints. More worryingly for Ulster is that Sam Carter is down injured, carrying his arm in a makeshift sling made out of the bottom of his jersey. He won’t be able to continue, and that’s a second member of the Ulster pack lost to injury in the first 25 minutes.

25Mins

Ulster substitution: Alan O’Connor is on to replace Carter, who goes straight to the dressing room.

26Mins

PENALTY! Bath 3-7 Ulster (Burns, 26′) Freddie Burns takes over the place-kicking duty for this one and makes no mistake. 

28Mins

Ulster pinged again for another high tackle, this one by Rea on Rokoduguni. It’s a few yards further back and Bath kick to touch just outside the Ulster 22. Possession secured from the lineout… and there’s a penalty advantage being played for an Ulster offside.

29Mins

That’s five penalties now against Ulster, and surely a handy three points for Bath and Burns. Henderson has a quick chat with referee Marius Mitrea, and then with his pack, as he attempts to keep his side on the right side of the law.

30Mins

PENALTY! Bath 6-7 Ulster (Burns, 30′) It’s a straightforward shot, and Freddie Burns makes no mistake. Bath are back within a point.

31Mins

Disaster for Mike Williams! He has all day and all night to claim the restart under no pressure at all, and lets it slip through his grasp. Ulster scrum inside the Bath 22 and an opportunity to immediately put the brakes on this purple patch for the hosts.

32Mins

Addison knocks it on. Bath clear.

37Mins

Silly penalty to concede from Ulster as Luke Marshall both comes in from the side and tackles a man who is not part of the breakdown. Given how Bath have dominated possession in this first half, Ulster can’t really afford to cough up the chance they do have on the ball.

38Mins

Rob Herring picks a great line and finds a hole in the Bath defence but then spills the ball forward as he gets set to pass it.

40Mins

Great stuff by Marcel Coetzee who, with the help of Alan O’Connor, holds up Bath possession and forces the turnover scrum. Just inside the 10 metre line.

40Mins

Clock’s in the red at the end of the first half…

40Mins

Penalty advantage being played to Ulster for a no-arms tackle by Bath captain Charlie Ewels. Play continues until Ulster lose it forward and now Cooney will have a straightforward chance to send them into the break with a 10-6 lead.

40Mins

WOW. He missed it. Don’t ask me how.

42Mins

Freddie Burns kicks into the space behind Ulster but overcooks it. Addison thinks briefly about trying to let it roll dead but doesn’t take the risk. 22 drop out.

44Mins

Ulster try to play it out from inside their own 22 but Josh Bayliss reaches in with a half-hearted attempt to intercept and is judged to have deliberately knocked the ball on.

46Mins

Ulster win the resulting lineout in midfield and secure possession in the maul, but then they get their wires crossed and when it goes to ground, the ball is not coming back. Bath scrum.

49Mins

Bath have 15+ phases in midfield without making any major progress before Luke Marshall shoots up to make a big hit on Jamie Roberts. It’s knocked forward in the tackle and we’ll come back for a Bath scrum.

52Mins

CHANCE! Oh, that’s a glorious opportunity for Ulster. Alan O’Connor does brilliantly to switch the play back inside to Luke Marshall on his shoulder with a no-look pass and Marshall drives into the 22 before he’s brought down by Priestland. O’Connor is there again to take the pop from Marshall and then Herring gets involved, keeping play alive and bringing Ulster up to within a couple of yards of the line. He’s tackled and tries the killer pass to Cooney which would surely result in a try but there are a lot of blue jerseys there and Cooney knocks it on. So close. 

54Mins

Big scrum for Bath! Will Stuart, the tighthead, is the man getting all the praise for winning the penalty.

Flag 57Mins

TRY FOR ULSTER! Bath 6-14 Ulster (Lyttle, 57′)

Ulster get a second try! It’s not the prettiest — Marshall’s pass goes to ground and bobbles forward before Addison scoops it up. He kicks towards the Bath line and the race is between himself and team-mate Rob Lyttle to see who gets there first, with Freddie Burns the only Bath player in a position to cover and seemingly not fit to get close to them.

Lyttle touches down in the corner — but it’s going to be checked by the TMO for the forward pass.

58Mins

It stands — and Cooney adds the extras! That’s a huge moment and Ulster, having been under the cosh for quite a lot of this game, lead by two scores with 22 minutes to play.

Flag 59Mins

TRY FOR BATH! Bath 13-14 Ulster (Hamer Webb, 59′)

Instant response! Gabriel Hamer Webb is only on the pitch and, with what must be his first touch, burns the Ulster cover on the outside and races in to score. Bath are right back in this!

65Mins

Alan O’Connor is pinged for a neck roll in the tackle and now Priestland will have a chance to put Bath ahead for the first time in the match…

67Mins

PENALTY! Bath 16-14 Ulster (Priestland, 67′)

He makes no mistake this time. Bath have turned this game upside down in the last 10 minutes and now it’s Ulster who have to go chasing it.

69Mins

Jamie Roberts goes in off his feet and Cooney hoofs the penalty inside the 22. Great position for Ulster, and they secure the lineout and win a penalty advantage. Free play here…

70Mins

That free play comes to nothing but it’s back for, dare I say, another very kickable chance for Cooney. The penalty appears to be against Zach Mercer for an infringement in the Ulster maul.

Flag 71Mins

PENALTY! Bath 16-17 Ulster (Cooney, 71′)

He makes it. Ulster go back in front with less than 10 to play.

75Mins

Both sides are now waiting for the other to blink as they box-kick back and forth, trying to keep the pressure on and force a mistake that would likely prove crucial at this juncture.

76Mins

And there we are — Cooney’s kick is knocked on by Priestland under pressure from Stockdale. Ulster scrum. Four minutes to play.

77Mins

SCRUM PENALTY ULSTER! It’s close enough to the half-way line and Cooney kicks to touch, just outside the 22. Ball secured at the lineout…

78Mins

Two minutes left. Ulster in possession just outside the Bath 22.

78Mins

Bath penalty. They’ll get the ball back and a chance to win the game.

79Mins

Priestland has put a monster boot on this. Bath win the lineout on the Ulster 10m line.

79Mins

PENALTY ULSTER – and that should be the game. Brilliant, brilliant stuff by Marcel Coetzee who got over the ball and simply would not be moved.

80Mins

Clock’s in the red but there will be time for one last Bath scrum…

Bath deep in Ulster territory now. Close to drop goal position…

Ninth phase. Just outside the Ulster 22.

JACOB STOCKDALE! Wait until you see this. He makes an incredible stop with Bath right on the line to win the game for Ulster!

Super play by Bath to get themselves into position, and they’ve a two-on-one overlap and look certain to score, but unfortunately for them, that one is Jacob Stockdale and he somehow manages to get his hands on the ball and smuggle it over the line!

What a huge, huge win for Ulster on the road, and who knows how pivotal it may prove to be in the final shake-up of this pool.

That’s all we’ve time for now, but stay with us over the course of the afternoon for all the rest of today’s action and reaction.

LIVE: Leinster v Benetton,

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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