Ulster ground out a memorable European win over Racing 92 to all but secure a knockout round appearance in April thanks to a try from Robert Baloucoune and a brace from Jacob Stockdale.

As expected, Ulster took the game to the Parisians in the opening stages of the match with big hits from Kieran Treadwell and Marcell Coetzee and turnovers from Rory Best forcing errors from the visitors.

Billy Burns kicked an early penalty before Robert Baloucoune scored the first try of the afternoon after eight minutes. A strong lineout set the platform and a great line from Louis Ludik created the space to send the Enniskillen man in at the corner.

Stockdale’s first try was well worked. Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison punched holes in the opposition defence which created space out wide. Simple hands and Ludik was the assister once again this time putting Europe’s form winger in. Austin Healey seemed to indicate that the pass from Ludik to Stockdale was forward however, I’d be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt due to the players running at such pace.

Racing 92 showed why they’re tournament contenders. They didn’t panic and Virimi Vakatawa beat three Ulster defenders to score his side’s first try after 20 minutes. Plenty of passion and endeavor was on show this afternoon and Ulster’s forwards really stepped up to the mark.

Will Addison kicked a penalty before Simon Zebo brought the French side to within six points with a try in the corner.

Stockdale’s second try arrived seven minutes after the restart. Similar to his try against the All Blacks in November, Billy Burns switched the play to the blindside Stockdale to finish with a chip and chase.

With a 13 point lead with 50 minutes played, the Racing onslaught began. After eight minutes of pressure on the Ulster line Brice Dulin crossed to make it an eight point game. They upped their intensity to a level where Ulster could just about live with and played some really nice rugby. Olivier Klemenczak made it a one-point game with 17 minutes left.

The last ten minutes were nervy, but the lads dug deep and Will Addison kicked a final penalty with a few seconds left.

While Racing scored four tries, Ulster’s defence was mightily impressive. The linespeed was exceptional which restricted Racing’s free flowing game as they could not get the ball to the dangerous Juan Imhoff or Zebo. Every so often Ulster would pop up with a big tackle to stunt the momentum of Racing 92.

The impact of Leone Nakarawa was completely ineffective for Racing. Any time the big Fijian got his hands on the ball he was smothered by Ulstermen with one providing the chop tackle and another targeting the ball. This forced knock ons.

Ulster will travel to Welford Road with confidence and I wouldn’t bet against them coming away with a win to give them a better seeding in the next round.

7.2 Performance

Despite the blow of John Cooney's withdrawal before kick off, Ulster produced another one of those memorable European nights in Belfast.
The big players stepped up with Stockdale being imperious the ball in hand while Marcell Coetzee and Rory Best caused Racing many problems at the breakdown.
Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison were impressive. Both played pivotal roles in Stockdale's first try while they also set the tempo in the defensive line.
Louis Ludik continues to be one of Ulster's most reliable players while Ulster's front five put in great shifts.
Kieran Treadwell carried hard while Eric O'Sullivan and Marty Moore gave Ulster a platform at scrum time.
A little mention must also go to the flanker pairing of Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy. Reidy made a mountain of tackles while Murphy popped up with a vital turnover towards the end of the game.

  • Eric O'Sullivan 7
  • Rory Best 8
  • Marty Moore 7
  • Alan O'Connor 7
  • Kieran Treadwell 7
  • Sean Reidy 7
  • Jordi Murphy 7
  • Marcell Coetzee 9
  • Dave Shanahan 7
  • Billy Burns 6
  • Jacob Stockdale 9
  • Stuart McCloskey 8
  • Will Addison 7
  • Robert Baloucoune 8
  • Louis Ludik 8
  • Rob Herring 6
  • Andy Warwick 6
  • Ross Kane 6
  • Ian Nagle 6
  • Nick Timoney N/A
  • Jonny Stewart N/A
  • Michael Lowry N/A
  • Darren Cave N/A
  • User Ratings (3 Votes) 8