Ulster left ‘gutted’ as they are out of Champions Cup after Harlequins hammering

Seven-try defeat and Racing 92′s bonus-point victory over Cardiff mean Challenge Cup for northern province

Harlequins 47 Ulster 19

Even though they came into this game knowing they had to win or at the very least give this final pool game their very best shot, Ulster only encountered systemic malfunction and ended up meekly limping out of the Champions Cup.

Their finality of their fate was ultimately sealed not long after they had succumbed to this seven-try pounding at the Stoop with Racing 92′s hefty win over Cardiff in Paris ensuring that Dan McFarland’s side ended up fifth in the group and destined for duty in the Challenge Cup’s last 16.

Though being part of Europe’s undercard may yet prove to be more to the northern province’s liking – their previous and only visit being in season 2020-21 when they made the semi-finals before imploding at Leicester Tigers – there was no disguising that the way the deal was sealed has left them reeling.

Seven tries were coughed up at Quins and most, if not all, were the result of truly dire Ulster defending which would suggest that the squad are occupying an alarming head space.


Throw in the thumping handed to them by Toulouse and Ulster have coughed up 14 tries and 95 points from their final two pool games, ample evidence that the team just aren’t functioning regardless of the quality of opposition before them.

The bigger picture is even more discomforting for McFarland as the northern province have now just won two European fixtures from their last 10 which further suggests that Europe’s upper tier is operating at an altitude where Ulster now find themselves struggling for oxygen.

“The bitterly disappointing thing is that we feel we haven’t performed, and we’ve got to live with that,” said a clearly deflated Ulster assistant coach Dan Soper.

“We’re gutted about that [not getting out of the group] we had high expectations of ourselves going into the group, but we knew it would be a tough group.

“We have been beaten by good teams who have performed on the day, but we also look at our own performance and that’s probably the thing that will be most disappointing,” he said.

Apart from turning over Racing 92 at home, it’s been a painful time in Europe; losing the opener at Bath and then the double-whammy of being swatted by Toulouse and Quins, the latter who had already qualified coming into last Saturday’s encounter.

“We’re disappointed because we’re out of the competition and because our performance hasn’t been where we would want it to be.

“I’d like to think that when we turn up, we endeavour to give the best account of ourselves, unfortunately in the last couple we haven’t done that,” Soper added.

Of even more embarrassment for Ulster was that Quins were not even required to be firing on all cylinders to get this job done, their motivation being to chase a possible last 16 home game by nailing maximum points.

Nick David’s fourth minute try set the tone when he received a quick lineout throw and caught Ulster asleep at the wheel, Marcus Smith adding the two points.

Though David McCann’s try, converted by John Cooney, helped level things up during David’s subsequent yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, Ulster abjectly failed to capitalise when enjoying dominant possession and territory.

Replacement Louis Lynagh – a late addition to the match day squad – then scored after Smith had tapped a mark in Quins’ 22, Jacob Stockdale failing to gather the kick ahead. Then Lynagh managed to steal a second from a hack through with, this time, Robert Baloucoune making a mess of tidying up.

Smith’s conversions put Quins 21-7 in front at the break and, from there, it only got worse for the visitors whose set-piece and breakdown work were worryingly poor.

Danny Care claimed the bonus point and then Andre Esterhuizen crossed – the line before David claimed his second, two conversions from Smith taking the score to 40-7.

Ulster finally added some points but touchdowns from Stuart McCloskey and Stockdale brought absolutely nothing by way of consolation on an afternoon of much pain and accompanying embarrassment for the visitors.

Harlequins tries: David 2, Lynagh 2, Care, Esterhuizen, Evans; Cons Smith 4.

Ulster tries: McCann, McCloskey, Stockdale; Cons Cooney 1, Doak 1.

Harlequins: T Green; N David, O Beard, A Esterhuizen, W Joseph; M Smith, D Care; J Marler, J Walker, W Collier, I Herbst, G Hammond, C Cunningham-South, W Evans, A Dombrandt (capt).

Replacements: S Riley for Walker 61mins, F Baxter for Marler h-t, D Lewis for Collier 56mins, J Launchbury for Herbst 54mins, A White for Cunnigham-Smith 71mins, W Porter for Care 59mins, L Anyanwu for David 73mins, L Lynagh for Beard 16mins.

Yellow card: David 7mins

Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; S Kitshoff, T Stewart, T O’Toole, K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt), Matty Rea, D McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: J Andrew for Stewart 50mins, A Warwick for Kitshoff 54mins, M Moore for O’Toole 54mins, H Sheridan for Treadwell 35mins, Marcus Rea for Matty Rea 71mins, N Doak for Cooney 54mins, L Marshall for Hume h-t, W Addison for Lowry 71mins, O’Toole for Moore 58-71mins.

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