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Dublin: -1°C Sunday 24 January 2021


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Good afternoon and welcome along to our live coverage of today’s Champions Cup clash from the Ricoh Arena, where Ulster take on Wasps aiming to book their place in the quarter-finals.

It’s a busy day for rugby and one which has already suffered a setback. Munster’s crucial meeting with Castres has been postponed until 4.00pm, meaning Ulster will now be the first Irish province in action this afternoon.

It’s a day of days for Les Kiss’ side. There are all sorts of mathematical permutations at play in one of the most hotly-contested final rounds of European pool games in recent memory.

That said, Ulster know that any sort of a win this afternoon will see them into the last eight for the first time since 2014 — a place their supporters believe the side belong at the latter stages of European competition each and every season.

Just over 45 minutes to go before we get underway.

Before then, let’s have a quick reminder of today’s teams.


15. Willie Le Roux
14. Christian Wade
13. Juan De Jongh
12. Kyle Eastmond
11. Marcus Watson
10. Danny Cipriani
9. Dan Robson

1.  Simon McIntyre
2.  Tom Cruse
3.  Jake Cooper-Woolley
4. Joe Launchbury (Capt.)
5.  James Gaskell
6.  Jack Willis
7.  Guy Thompson
8.  Nizaam Carr


16. Ashley Johnson
17. Ben Harris
18. Marty Moore
19. Kearnan Myall
20. Thomas Young
21. Joe Simpson
22. Rob Miller
23. Brendan Macken


15. Charles Piutau
14. Louis Ludik
13. Darren Cave
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Christian Lealiifano
9. John Cooney

1. Callum Black
2. Rory Best (Capt)
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Iain Henderson
7. Sean Reidy
8. Nick Timoney


16. Rob Herring
17. Kyle McCall
18. Wiehahn Herbst
19. Matty Rea
20. Chris Henry
21. Dave Shanahan
22. Johnny McPhillips
23. Rob Lyttle

Before we get underway, get yourself stuck into some pre-game reading material courtesy of Sean Farrell, who is reporting from chilly Coventry this afternoon.


The players have arrived with just under 25 minutes to go now. How do we see this one going?

Rory Best and Stuart McCloskey arrive 21/1/2018 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Christian Lealiifano arrives 21/1/2018

A view of the Ulster dressing room 21/1/2018

Ulster’s goal today is simple if they want to secure a home quarter-final: a bonus point win. The fact they face a Wasps side who are on the brink of elimination is always a plus. The hosts need a bonus point win for four tries while at the same time not allowing Ulster a losing bonus point if they have any chance of making the last eight.

There’s a lot at stake but more than anything else today’s game will present Ulster a golden opportunity for Les Kiss’ charges to build on last weekend’s dramatic win at home to La Rochelle. They know they cannot falter when it matters most today.

3 – Wasps 0-0 Ulster: The first penalty of the afternoon goes to Ulster thanks to industrious work from Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale at the breakdown. Christian Lealiifano, on his last appearance, kicks into touch.

4 – Wasps 0-0 Ulster: A terrific leap from Willie Le Roux sees him claim a high ball from John Cooney. Ulster earn another penalty as Lealiifano once again kicks into touch with the visitors edging on the 22m line.

6 – Wasps 0-0 Ulster: Ulster fail to hold onto possession when they looked like threatening. The ball is lost in contact and Wasps’ scrum holds strong before the ball is punted forward upfield. The rain is putting both sides on the front foot as slippy conditions persist in Coventry.

8 – Wasps 0-0 Ulster: Stuart McCloskey is penalised for playing the ball along the ground sloppily. However Wasps turn down the chance to kick for goal, but rather boot the ball far into the corner.

11– Wasps 5-0 Ulster: TRY!! Wasps secure the first try of the afternoon following a brilliant lineout drive. It’s touched down by Guy Thompson who could not be stopped in his tracks.

12– Wasps 7-0 Ulster: Danny Cipriani knocks over the conversion with ease; a decent kick and Wasps are seven to the good.

14– Wasps 7-0 Ulster: Yet another brilliant take in the air from Le Roux following a John Cooney box kick. The visitors concede a penalty on the half-way allowing Cipriani to knock the ball on and maintain this early pressure.

17– Wasps 7-0 Ulster: Jacob Stockdale is off after taking a worrying heavy knock along his leg, as Rob Lyttle takes his place.

19 – Wasps 7-0 Ulster: A clever, neat inside pass from Tom Cruse allows Dan Robson space to run a good 10m inside the Ulster 22, however the visitors recover and hold resolute.

22 – Wasps 7-5 Ulster: TRY!! Sean Reidy poaches superbly to punish some sloppy handing from Wasps and get his side on the scoreboard. That was so poor from the hosts after a risky pass from Le Roux to Wade, but the interception is what made it — two quick offloads and Reidy does just enough to get it over the line.

24 – Wasps 7-7 Ulster: John Cooney knocks over the conversion and we’re all square!

28 – Wasps 7-7 Ulster: A big, big scrum from the Ulster pack earns a penalty and you can sense a brief spell of momentum swinging their way as we reach the half hour mark.

31 – Wasps 7-7 Ulster: Play resumes as Willis is cleared to continue. Wasps suffer again within the scrum but receive a penalty as Cipriani kicks into touch.

32 – Wasps 12-7 Ulster: TRY!! Tom Cruse dives in following a kick behind from Cipriani – the referee calls for a TMO as there is a question of being offside — but is happy to award the try to the hooker as Wasps re-gain the lead.

33 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: Cipriani converts for the second time this afternoon and his side lead once again by seven.

33 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: Louis Ludik has come off for a HIA and is replaced by Johnny McPhilips for Ulster.

34 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: Using his low centre of gravity Rory Best dives straight on top of the ball to smother it and earns his side a penalty. His leadership against La Rochelle was apt last weekend featuring a brilliant individual penalty; it will be needed again as we look towards a massive second half for Ulster.

38 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: Elsewhere, La Rochelle have taken a 13-0 lead against Harlequins, bringing them back to top of the pool.

Well, what did we make of that? Despite that late Cruse try it’s still very much in the balance in the rain and mud in Coventry.

Wasps have enjoyed a lot of dominance, initially through Willie Le Roux nullifying the kicking of John Cooney with supreme catching. However it was his terribly sloppy pass which let Ulster in for Sean Reidy’s excellent, punishing try after 23 minutes.

A second successful conversion from Cooney drew the sides level, but another poor lapse at the back from Les Kiss’ side was exposed by a quite brilliant Le Roux kick which saw Cruse touch down.

A massive 40 minutes lies in wait for Ulster’s season, and a lot of work to do. Can they turn it around?


Second-half: We’re back underway for the second period as Christian Lealiifano kicks off.

42 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: Ulster make up some early ground thanks to a neat run from first half introduction Johnny McPhilips. However it sees Wasps earn an early penalty following a knock-on. Good early pressure.

45 – Wasps 14-7 Ulster: A brave, brave tackle from Rob Lyttle on Guy Thompson as Ulster became exposed along the righthand channel. Le Roux again instrumental, but Lyttle uses the momentum of his whole body to keep the ball in the corner and force a scrum deep inside the 22.

47 – Wasps 19-7 Ulster: TRY!! Wasps forge a 12 point lead with a third try of the afternoon. Lyttle’s tackle appears in vain as the scrum sees the ball worked all the way across towards Le Roux following Cipriani’s quick pass. Brilliant breakdown turnover.

48 – Wasps 19-7 Ulster: Cipriani fails to knock over the conversion for the first time today. He succeeded comfortably in his previous two attempts but this one glided well wide of the posts. It remains a 12 point lead and Ulster have a mountain to climb now.

In case you missed it earlier, here is Tom Cruse’s brilliant try just before the break.

52 – Wasps 19-7 Ulster: Tom Cruse almost with his second try as he breaks away with speed and agility. He intercepts cleverly and swiftly 20m out, but is tackled at the last by Darren Cave who saves Ulster’s bacon.

55 – Wasps 19-7 Ulster: Wasps really are enjoying a prolonged spell of dominance. A lineout from 5m brings the phase to a close as the hosts make two changes.

55 – Wasps 24-7 Ulster: TRY!! It’s not looking good for Ulster now, as this try brings Wasps ahead in the pool and looking towards a potential quarter-final place. Jake Cooper-Woolley touches down following some more decisive play deep inside the 22.

56 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Cipriani knocks over his third conversion from four as Wasps take a 19 point lead.

59 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Elsewhere, Harlequins remain 7-16 down to La Rochelle.

61 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Just after that fourth try, Rory Best was replaced by Robert Herring for Ulster. They need a dramatic, dramatic turnaround here but it might just be beyond them with under 20 minutes to go. The European dream is slipping away beyond reach as they drop out of the top 10 in the pool standings.

63 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: A promising break full of speed and adrenaline from Johnny McPhilips down the left wing, however the ball is spilled in midfield and the move peters out Frustration for the visitors as a scrum is called.

It’s been a disappointing second half from Ulster as they trail by 19 points.

Christian Lealiifano 21/1/2018

Willie Le Roux celebrates his try with teammates 21/1/2018 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Juan De Jongh is tackled by Stuart McCloskey and Sean Reidy 21/1/2018

And here is that Cooper-Woolley bonus point from earlier.

69 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: The hosts knocking on the door for a fifth try but Stuart McCloskey remains strong and keeps his footing to force the Wasps line back out again. 13 phases comes to a close as the referee calls a penalty which Cipriani kicks into touch.

72 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Guy Thompson is penalised for a knock-on inside the 22 which gives Ulster a chance to boot the ball clear after what seemed like an endless period of tireless pressure. The game has lost the swing and momentum it had in the first period as Wasps have blown Les Kiss’ side out of the water.

73 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Christian Lealiifano departs the field to a chorus of applause. His time in Belfast will not be soon forgotten as he returns to Australia; he is replaced by David Shanahan.

76 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: Dave Shanahan and Stuart McCloskey do all in their power to steer the ball over the try line but the Wasps pack remain compact and impossible to break down. They force a knock-on which results in a scrum along the halfway.

78 – Wasps 26-7 Ulster: So very nearly a fifth try for Wasps as Brendan Macken breaks clean through along the left touchline. The adverse weather conditions sees him slip into touch and that should be that.

That is that then. Ulster outplayed in some terrible weather conditions as they exit Europe with a 26-7 defeat at the Ricoh. Thanks a million for joining us, plenty of reaction from Coventry to come!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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