My plaudits for this game goes to a power packed display from Ulster’s O’Donoghue and Tuohy who supplied the steam in the boiler room that enabled the rest of the team to go about the business of dismantling French aristocrats Stade Francais.
The work rate of this pair was phenomenal throughout the 80 minutes and their excellent support work contributed massively to Ulster’s dominance of the breakdown, were they completed a massive 24 turnovers destroying Stade’s ability to build pressure.
However, this pair made their most telling contribution in the re-invigorated lineouts as they not only shored up Ulster’s supply of ball but managed to steal a quarter of their opponents throws and as Ulster were rattled last week the same was true of Stade yesterday.
What a difference a week makes in this wonderful game of rugby and with first phase possession guaranteed Ulster were able to implement their game plan with confidence and the extra few inches that confidence brings enabled Ulster to hit harder and keep Stade on the back foot for most of the game.
It was this confidence that led to Ulster’s fantastic opening try by Brady who finished of a scintillating counter attack by Humphreys and Danielli putting Ulster into a deserved lead.
Things however could have been different and during the first half I thought that the outcome of the game rested on the shoulders of Andrew Trimble.
With a low blinding sun causing problems for Ulster’s fielders, Trimble’s corner was targeted throughout the opening salvos but, back to his best, his defensive play and strong running turned a perceived weakness into a strength which ultimately resulted in the move of the match as Humphreys and Ferris combined to send Danielli on his way for Ulster’s match winning try at the start of the second half.
Stade, now rattled, lost the plot for twenty odd minutes and we witnessed the worst of the French team. Leaving aside Dupuy’s alleged gouge on Ferris for which he will surely be cited it was captain Roncerro who lost it completely as he postured and pouted like a spoilt child at every decision that went against the French. How he managed to stay on the pitch I don’t know but his tantrums took a lot of the momentum away from the French. All good stuff for Ulster and surely something they can exploit in next week’s return in Brussels.
Ulster are now back in the running in this group and with the return leg being something of a new experience for both sides they certainly have a great chance of doing the double over the Parisians. Despite some scintillating individual displays from Ulster players, Humphreys and Ferris outstanding throughout, it must be remembered that it was the boys in the boiler room that made it possible. Same again next week Dan and Ed!
View match pictures from Colin at Rugby Picture here.
FRU Match Pictures here.