Ulster can hold their heads up after suffering a narrow defeat at Stade Marcel Michelin, beaten largely by the incompetence of referee Dave Pearson who awarded Clermont their match winning try after a series of ilegal moves by the home team.
There could have been no more obvious infringement than Clermont’s Nathan Hines taking out Chris Henry before Paulo went over for the only try of the game but, appearing intimidated by the home crowd, Pearson looked to bottle it in the ten minutes leading up to the try giving the home crowd the result they wanted. The score was a double whammy of incompetence as Hines should not have been on the pitch, if only Pearson had the courage to yellow card him for an earlier infringement.
However, despite Pearson’s incompetence, Ulster had the opportunities to win this game, edging the first half, and really they should have taken a lead into the break, squandering two try scoring opportunities.
Even as the minutes counted down in the second period Ulster still had opportunities only for Muller to give Pearson the opportunity to switch an Ulster attacking scrum to a penalty against with his extravagant gesticulations regarding a Clermont knock on giving Pearson no option but to reverse the call. This coupled with some poor darts from Rory Best at an Ulster attacking lineout, 8 yards out. allowed Clermont to clear Ulster’s two best attacking opportunities of the second half.
It was an extraordinary outburst from Muller, no doubt due to his extreme frustration at the referee’s performance, but an unfortunate roll back to previous seasons for Rory who needs to get this lineout monkey of his back if he is going to take his rightful place as one of the World’s best hookers!
While these two flashes of indiscipline may have been frustrating it must be remembered that Ulster actually did enough in this game to get the away bonus point and confirm Heineken Cup qualification in their own right, a feat which few have achieved in the cauldron of Stade Marcel. While today’s performance was a definite step down in intensity from the dismantling of Leicester it was a performance that will leave Ulster as the least favoured of opponents for the top four sides.
|Scorers and Teams.|
Clermont: Parra 1, Con, 4 Pen; Pearson 1 Try.
Ulster: Pienaar 5 Pen.
Ulster (15-9): Stefan Terblanche, Andrew Trimble, Ian Whitten, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy, Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar. (1-8): Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg. (16-23): Andi Kyriacou, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Nevin Spence, Adam D’Arcy
Clermont (15-9): Lee Byrne, Sitiventi Sivivatu, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzeiu, David Skrela Morgan Parra. (1-8): Lionel Faure, Ben Kayser, Clement Ric, Julien Pierre, Natahn Hines, Gerhard Vosloo, Julien Bards, Julien Bonnaire. (16-23): Tii Paulo, Vincent Dbaty, Daniel Kotze, Jamie Cudmore, Alexandre Lepandry, Kevin Senio, Brock James, Regan King.