England’s Olly Barkley kicked 16 points as Ulster defeated the French side Clermont Auvergne 33-19 at Ravenhill on Wednesday night to make an impressive start to their European Champions Cup campaign.
The Irish province scored five tries in total with David Wilton, Iain Henderson, Andrew Trimble, Ian Madigan and Marcell Coetzee all touching down. The visitors were at times sloppy and could easily have conceded more tries. They ended the night with the ball in Ulster’s 22s in the final two minutes but could not build on their 12-0 lead at the break.
The win puts Ulster second in Pool 5 behind leaders Wasps, who were already assured of victory against Montpellier on Wednesday night. Clermont lie third, a point behind, with two matches left.
Barkley had an impressive night at fly-half, kicking 16 points, including four penalties in the first half as Ulster trailed 12-6 at the break.
Saracens, the 2014/15 champions, had an easier night in winning 51-8 against the Austrian side FC Kaiserslautern in the Other European Pool 2. Saracens started their campaign with a deserved bonus point. The visitors became the first team to score a try in Europe this season. A five-minute burst in the second half saw Saracens pile on tries, with Ugo Monye and Owen Farrell running in two for their team. Mako Vunipola ran in a fourth, while the substitute Thabo Mnyata-Mulder scored a try and contributed two conversions and a penalty.
The draw between London Irish and Leinster in the Other European Pool 3 was a closely-fought affair. Fergus McFadden scored a try on 20 minutes and converted from out wide before Nathan Earle went over from an Irish penalty try to give the Exiles a 7-3 lead at half-time.
Yet a try from McFadden 12 minutes after the break turned the game in Leinster’s favour. Jordan Larmour scored a try 10 minutes later after a Leinster break, then Fionn Carr’s try seven minutes later set up a tense finish, which the Irish side won 14-10.
Clermont Auvergne and Montpellier are two points behind the top two in the Other European Pool 2 with two matches to play. Parisians Montpellier held off Scarlets 42-38 on Tuesday night to end their match on a high. The Welsh side had led 16-10 at the interval, but Montpellier scored a number of tries after the break.
“The last 10 minutes were brutal,” said Montpellier’s captain Antoine Dupont. “We are proud of how the team played. We had to work very hard, but our defence was great.”
London Irish now have the challenge of winning their last two matches at home, against Racing 92 and Toulon, to close the gap on the Exiles and Montpellier, who are both chasing a quarter-final place.