Exeter Chiefs (12) 31
TRY: Michele Campagnaro (2), Thomas Waldrom (2), Penalty Try. CON: Gareth Steenson (3)
Ulster Rugby (12) 19
TRY: Sean Reidy, Charles Piutau (2). CON: Paddy Jackson (2).

Ulster effectively crashed out of European competition with this 31 – 19 defeat at Sandy Park yesterday evening. There is a faint mathematical possibility that they could still qualify. It needs a lot to go right for Ulster  Rugby next weekend i.e. Glasgow, Exeter, Montpellier, Castres and Toulouse would all need to lose I believe! (And Ulster get a bonus point win of course!) 

As you can see from our visual, above right, it’s not been the best of season’s for Ulster. In fact, it’s the worst win ratio since we started tracking them back to 2010. There are clearly bigger issues in the camp that the result of this match which was their third away loss in Europe this season. 

As is the norm for Ulster Rugby, I see they have announced their signings for next season following their exit from Europe. Our problems, culminating in our performance on the pitch, do not necessarily stem from the team. My feeling is that a bigger shake up is required, starting from the CEO and working down through all the underperforming teams. At the moment that would be all teams with the notable exception of the Women U18’s and maybe Ulster A. 

Anyway, I’ve had to sit through it twice now so let’s get the match report. I better start it before I lose the will to continue. 

Ulster started the match in fine form with an early try from Sean Reidy, who followed up a scything run by Stuart McCloskey. Paddy Jackson missed the extras but it would have been churlish to complain with Ulster leading 0 – 5 after three minutes.

We did have another couple of stabs at the line with Ian Henderson coming close. However we seem to slip all to easily back into a low risk game and run through our defensive patterns and exit strategies rather than go for the jugular. 

Other teams can smell the lack of ambition and as the first quarter progressed the Chiefs began to get on top. A turnover and a couple of dummies later Exeter winger Michele Campagnaro raced home to open the scoring for the Chiefs. Gareth Steenson missed the extras leaving the score at 5 – 5 after 21 minutes. 

Exeter did push on and Thomas Waldron crossed for their second on the half hour mark. Steenson converted to give the Chiefs a 12 – 5 lead. 

A touch of individual magic from Charles Piutau brought the teams level on the 35th minute. The New Zealander stepping inside Jack Nowell with consummate ease for Ulster’s second. Jackson converted and the teams turned round with the score reading 12 all. 

Exeter pretty much put the game to bed in the third quarter. Waldron and then Campagnaro each completing a brace to secure the try bonus. Steenson converted the first to give Exeter a 24 – 12 lead. 

Ulster did get back in contention when Piutau scored his second. The wing gathering a well executed cross field kick from Jackson, which the out half converted. They could have levelled the game minutes later if Dave Shanahan had managed to gather a wickedly bouncing grubber from Jackson. Unfortunately the youngster overran the ball and with that went the game. 

Exeter regrouped and a failed interception from Jackson saw him sit out the rest of the game and the hosts awarded a penalty try. Stenson knocked over the conversion and Exeter were home and hosed at 31 – 17 with eight minutes to go. 

Ulster huffed and puffed but there was nothing left. I found myself feeling sorry for Big Stevie Ferris as he tried to remain positive in the commentary box! 

Ulster Rugby: Louis Ludik, Charles Piutau, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Jackson, Dave Shanahan, Callum Black, Rory Best, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Pete Browne, Ian Henderson, Chris Henry, Sean Reidy. Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Jonny Simpson, Franco vd Merwe, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Brett Herron, Jacob Stockdale. 

The result means that Ulster failed to pick up a win on the road in their European Cup campaign. Someone needs to tell Shane Logan that  World Domination requires beating the likes of Exeter and Bordeaux. Home and away! 

#SUFTUM