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Ulster give themselves quarter-final chance with hammering of Oyonnax

The northern province ran in eight tries in total at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster 56

Oyonnax 3

ULSTER HAVE DONE their part, and just about as convincingly as possible.

Les Kiss’ side scored eight tries in a rampant performance against a pitiful Oyonnax, securing the bonus-point win they required and boosting their points difference handsomely.

Darren Cave celebrates his try with Craig Gilroy Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Now they must wait on results elsewhere to learn whether or not they will feature in the Champions Cup quarter-finals. If two of Leinster, Scarlets, Leicester and Exeter can win over the remainder of the weekend, Ulster will be playing European rugby in April.

Fullback Jared Payne was the star of the show at Kingspan Stadium, though the likes of man of the match Nick Williams, Luke Marshall, Paul Marshall, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, and captain Rob Herring all impressed.

Against an Oyonnax side whose work rate was appalling and whose defensive shape was as fractured as you’ll see in the professional game, it was difficult not to deliver a strong performance.

Nonetheless, Ulster went about their business in a clinical manner, striking well off a strong set-piece, supporting the ball carrier superbly and, once again, showing their rounded skill set in terms of handling and footwork.

If Ulster do advance through to the quarter-finals, they will be a test for anyone on the road.

Kiss’ men had the bonus point secured by the interval, having torn the visiting French outfit apart in the opening 40.

They had their first try within three minutes of kick-off, the hard-working and impactful Herring burrowing over from close range after scrum-half Marshall’s quick-tap penalty brought Ulster within striking distance.

Rory Scholes scores a try Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Darren Cave was next over, dotting down before the quarter mark on the end of a superb set-piece strike move. Luke Marshall carried well in midfield from a lineout, allowing Ulster to bounce back against the grain and run a dummy loop play on Herring.

The hooker passed inside to Payne running a perfect line to burst through, draw fullback Florian Denos and send Cave haring over to finish. It’s a move Joe Schmidt’s Leinster and Ireland have had success with, and Ulster ran the old classic in impressive fashion.

Oyonnax’s Rory Clegg had fired over one penalty, missing his second, to at least get the Top 14 side on the scoreboard, but Ulster continued to run everything and rejected chances to shoot at goal.

The third try showed Payne at his best in the 15 shirt, as he countered from a poorly-chased Oyonnax clearance, beat two defenders and fed Luke Marshall on his right. The ball was moved back inside through Jackson to the supporting Rory Scholes – only just on the pitch as a blood replacement for Andrew Trimble – to score.

Heading towards the break, a sharp snipe and offload from scrum-half Marshall allowed openside Reidy to notch the bonus-point try for the Ulstermen.

The scoring continued freely after the break. Luke Marshall’s outside half-break and offload sent Craig Gilroy scampering through the Oyonnax defence, only for his pass to Trimble to be batted into touch.

Trimble reacted swiftly, took a quick lineout to Reidy and a rapid recycle allowed the experienced wing to put Gilroy through a tackle in the right corner. Jackson converted to maintain his 100% record off the tee before making way for Ian Humphreys.

Ian Humphreys runs in a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Back row Robbie Diack – who finished the game in the second row – was next over, barrelling in from a metre out after Reidy was sent clear by the rampaging Williams. Humphreys strode through a glaring gap in the Oyonnax defence within three minutes for Ulster’s seventh try, converting himself.

Payne was the eight try scorer for Kiss’ men, taking a pass from Darren Cave on the centre’s impressive return from injury. Oyonnax managed to stem the tide for much of the remainder of the final quarter, though Ulster almost finished with a ninth, only for replacement Dave Shanahan to be hauled down just short.

The Kingspan Stadium crowd went home happy anyway, back to their televisions to keep an eye on results elsewhere.

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Rob Herring, Darren Cave, Rory Scholes, Sean Reidy, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack, Ian Humphreys, Jared Payne

Conversions: Paddy Jackson [5 from 5], Ian Humphreys [3 from 3]

Oyonnax scorers:

Penalties: Rory Clegg [1 from 2]

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble (blood bin – Rory Scholes ’27 to ’37), Darren Cave (Rory Scholes ’62), Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson (Ian Humphreys ’52 – reversal ’71), Paul Marshall (Dave Shanahan ’69); Kyle McCall (Callum Black ’6), Rob Herring (captain) (Rory Best ’74), Ricky Lutton (Bronson Ross ’68); Alan O’Connor, Franco van der Merwe (Roger Wilson ’52); Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Nick Williams (Clive Ross ’60).

OYONNAX: Florian Denos (captain); Daniel Ikpefan, Guillaume Bousses, Alaska Taufa (Eamonn Sheridan ’62), Dug Codjo; Rory Clegg (Regis Lespinas ’56), Julien Blanc; Soane Tonga’uiha (Laurent Delboulbès ’68), Thomas Bordes (Jeremie Maurouard ’52), Giorgi Vepkhvadze (blood bin - Horace Pungea ‘HT); Leon Power (Fabrice Metz ’52), Geoffrey Fabbri (Maurie Fa’asavalu ’68); Valentin Ursache, Pierrick Gunther, Pedrie Wannenburg.

Replacement not used: Fabien Cibray.

Referee: Marius Mitrea [Italy].

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Murray Kinsella

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