Castres' Pedrie Wannenburg is blocked by Ulster's Chris Henry, Robbie Diack and John Afoa. ©INPHO/Presseye/Jonathan Porter

As it happened: Castres v Ulster, Heineken Cup

A home quarter final beckoned for Mark Anscombe’s men if they could win away handsomely in France.

Ulster could secure a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup if they recorded their first away win in France.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the games.

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Castres 8-9 Ulster

Welcome along to the liveblog and let me tell you the game is one minute old and level at 0-0. Teams to follow.

Castres Olympique: Pierre Bernard; Max Evans, Seremaia Bai, Remi Lamerat, Marcel Garvey; Remi Tales, Rory Kockott; Yannick Forestier, Marc Antoine Rallier, Anton Peikrishvili; Matthias Rolland (c), Christophe Samson; Mathieu Babillot, Piula Faasalele, Pedrie Wannenburg.

Replacements: Brice Mach, Saimone Taumoeapeau, Mihaita Lazar, Joe Tekori, Thierry Lacrampe, Janie Bornman, Paul Bonnefond, Marc Andreu.

Ulster: Craig Gilroy; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Michael Allen; Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry (c), Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Iain Henderson, Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Paddy Jackson, Chris Cochrane.

Afoa earns Ulster an early penalty but Pienaar declines a kick at the posts. His boot gets them a 5m lineout but Bests throw is not straight in windy conditions. The Stade Pierre Antoine looks like an Airtricity League ground. Another scrum coming up.

Afoa is whistled for spinning the scrum and Castres get a free kick out. Mike Allen is tackled in the air and Pienaar kicks for the line again, this time on the left flank. Lineout won but Pienaar knocks on.

TRY CASTRES: Wonder try from Castres there and Lamerat finishes off after Allen and Marshall missed with desperate diving tackles and the right wing.  Max Evans was the initial maestro. The conversion is missed by Kockott but it is Castres 5-0 Ulster after 10 minutes.

Evans with a super flick pass (on replays for that try assist). Ulster immediately back into it as Castres infringe at the breakdown and Pienaar slots over from 40 metres out. Castres 5-3 Ulster and the wind is causing havoc out there.

Rory Best is struggling to compensate for the swirling winds and another lineout is lost. Castres with a scrum on the ’22. The French side are playing into the win. Kockott and Wannenburg [former Ulster] are causing trouble. Paddy Wallace gives away a penalty for a stray arm. Nigel Owens scolds and Kockott adds a simple penalty – Castres 8-3 Ulster with 18 minutes gone.

Lamerat and Evans linking up again and Allen misses another tackle before the Scot is dragged over the touchline. Best’s throw is good and Ulster put the phases together. Penalty eventually penalised for not rolling away. Acute penalty on offer but from the 22 – Ulster go scrum instead.

Great Ulster scrum and Faasalele gives away another penalty as he break off the back to pounce on a ball that is clearly still under the control of the Ulster pack. Re-set again as Owens waxes loud and lyrical. Loves the sound of his own voice, that bloke. ANOTHER penalty given – penalty try has to be near…

Rats to that! Early engagement says Owens and Castres get a free kick to clear upfield.

More bad news as Roger weilson limps off to be replaced by Iain Henderson. Robbie Diack will switch to Number 8, with Henderson going to blindside. Shame for Wilson as Declan Kidney had mentioned him as a possible call-up for Ireland if he came through this weekend. 29 minutes gone.

They’ll get more Mark, don’t worry.

Lamerat is thumped in the midfield by Allen and knocks on. Good scrum position.

No Tony [in the comments section below], that blue paint on my forehead is not from a huge RBS sign on a rugby field. It was in support of Vasncouver Canucks #40 Maxim Lapierre during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The city was torched about three hours after that picture was taken.

Trimble is bypassed up the wing but Henry makes a strong tackle. Ulster have an attacking scrum inside the Castres half. The wind advantage is only with Ulster for seven more minutes. Pienaar declines a kick at the posts again and hits the line. A 10m lineout coming up. Best misses Henderson though and Sampson steals.

Clear obstruction from a Castres forward and Pienaar has a simple 25m penalty and he slots it over. Castres 8-6 Ulster

Garvey and Trimble contest a swirling, high kick — it is a knock on and scrum to Ulster. The visitors are gobbling them up at the scrum! A re-set and a penalty is awarded. Pienaar with a kick just before the break but it drifts right and wide.

Start carding them Nigel.


The Ulster scrum is demolishing Castres but their lineout is malfunctioning badly. Someone should wang some WD40 on Rory Best’s throwing arm at the break.

Here is a half-time poll to keep your voting finger warm. With Chris Henry doing so well at seven this season [you can see where I'm leaning on this one], should he start at openside for Ireland against Wales? What would your Irish back row be:

Poll Results:

O'Brien, Henry, Heaslip (88)
Henderson, O'Brien, Heaslip (49)
O'Mahony, O'Brien, Heaslip (35)

We’re back underway in the second half

One v one out on the left wing but Gilroy steps up with a huge tackle on Garvey to prevent a try. Afoa then makes a super, low tackle and Ulster scramble back possession. Pienaar hits the line with the penalty kick clearance but Best can’t find his man in the lineout again. This is proving very costly for Anscombe’s Ulstermen.

Pardon the raving interruption Dewi Morris but Ulster have been mullered at the scrum AGAIN and another penalty is awarded. Last, last, final warning from Owens to Forestier, who is promptly replaced by Saimone Taumoeapeau.

Splash out for the laser eye surgery Tom. (Sky Sports screengrab)

Kockott with a penalty attempt from beyond halfway. The wind helped but it sidles left and wide. 50 minutes have gone.

Three on one for Castres on the halfway, up left, but Evans throws out of play with Marc Andreu on his shoulder. Trimble chases down a Pienaar kick but Andreu then clears and gains ground after a kicking to and fro.

Some controversy here as Darren Cave sparks a to-do after a supposed high tackle on Andreu, who ducked into the tackle. ‘No malice’ in it says Owens as he gifts the French side a penalty. Cave was forced into that as Trimble missed the sub on the left touchline. Castres go kick, lineout, maul but Robbie Diack is the architect behind an important steal before Pienaar kicks for Normandy.

Remi Tales tries a hopeful drop goal attempt from the halfway that never troubles the swaying posts. 58 minutes gone and I’ll say ‘hello, aye’ to David Elkin, who is following the liveblog from Toronto.

Jackson is on the pitch now for Ulster and he combines on a foray into the Castres 22 before Lamerat plays a defensive blinder by snatching the ball at the ruck. On a slightly more positive note, the lineout is improving.

Gilroy does well to find the line and put Ulster back in Castres territory. The French lineout is percolating [as Mary J Blige would say] but the visitors get a great penalty. Pienaar straight in front of the posts. He chips over from 15m and it is Castres 8-9 Ulster with 15 mins left.

Smart kick into the righthand corner by Andreu. Ulster have cut the lineout to four men and it flops as another dart is stolen. They scramble the ball back, through Best, though and a beauty of a chip over the top gains them 80 metres. Pienaar imperious as ever.

Lovely charge down from Jackson but luck goes Castres’ way as the ball bounces back into their clutches. 9 minutes to go. Cave busts up the centre and goes close. Plays goes right and wide before a crucial interception by Andreu.

Oldie but a goodie.

Ulster playing smart rugby here as they pin Castres back with tactical kicks and meaningful phases. Castres then penalised for not rolling away so Pienaar, against the wind just inside the French half, will line it up. Might work as a time waster if it does not go over the bar. Five minutes left. Had the accuracy but not the distance.

Late comment in from David in Toronto:

This is pretty dire stuff all round. Good to see Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson on. These two specifically, along with Gilroy, are three of the leading lights of the new Ulster generation. Partly due to his diminutive nature, I always worry for Jackson. Also because it looked like he mentally fell apart in the Heineken Cupfinal last year. Still, a talent for the future. Expect him to be Sexton’s international understudy in the next couple of years.

The bonus point would have been handy but a win would mean an awful lot to Ulster, especially with their injury woes of late. The Ulster front row of Court, Best and afoa have [in scrums] been magnificent. The home fans boo loudly as Stevenson slaps the ball away from Thierry Lacrampe but no penalty given and rightly so as he hit hand first.

15 seconds to go and Ulster have the final scrum…

Game over and Ulster win! Pienaar’s three penalties do the job and that is five wins from six games.

History has been made as Ulster get their first away win in France. High fives all-round. 23 points is the finishing total for the northerners. May not be enough to get them a quarter final at Ravenhill as Toulouse and Saracens are in action on Sunday.

Just waiting on the Northampton v Glasgow result [20-20 at present] before signing off. Sean Farrell will have all the action from Sandy Park from 5:30pm so join him for that. I’ll be back in my tree-house by then, reading the Beano and updating my Panini sticker album.

Shout-out to my brother-in-law too, who is convalescing and struugling to get through a roomful of jellies and chocolates. Here’s your final update: Glasgow Warriors have beaten Northampton Saints after a late try and conversion from Peter Horne. 27-20 to the Scots. Another team [Northampton] that Munster and Leinster need not worry about.

Cheers for the company and congrats to Ulster.

Heineken Cup Explainer: What Leinster and Munster need to do to reach 1/4 finals

Making history: 4 things Ulster must do to win for the first time in France

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