Home page | Official Irish Rugby


The sole Ulster score - a first half try from Sean Reidy converted by John Cooney - came about courtesy of a loose Wasps pass, and while the visitors enjoyed more than their fair share of possession, turnover ball and multiple handling errors ensured they left the Ricoh Arena empty-handed.

Ulster finished third in Pool 1 on 17 points, behind Dai Young's side by virtue of an inferior points tally in their two head-to-head matches. However, only the table toppers, La Rochelle, emerged as quarter-finalists from the pool courtesy of their 16-7 final round win at home to Harlequins.

Les Kiss made only three personnel changes to the Ulster team that had nudged La Rochelle off the summit last weekend, with Darren Cave coming in at centre and Louis Ludik moving to the right wing, Kyle McCall replacing Callum Black at loosehead prop, and Kieran Treadwell returning to the second row.

The remainder of the province's back-line was comprised of Charles Piutau at full-back, centre Stuart McCloskey, winger Jacob Stockdale and the half-back pairing of Lealiifano and Cooney, who were playing together for the final time.

Up front, captain Rory Best and tighthead Rodney Ah You completed the front row, with Alan O'Connor at lock alongside Treadwell, freeing up Iain Henderson to play in the back row with Reidy and young number 8 Nick Timoney.

On a marshy Ricoh Arena pitch, Wasps, who needed a bonus point victory to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages, kicked two early convertible penalties to touch, mauling over from the second for a Guy Thompson try on 10 minutes.

Danny Cipriani's conversion dispatched, Kiss was soon forced into making a change as Stockdale failed to recover from a dead leg and limped off to be replaced by the 20-year-old Robert Lyttle, who came on for only his second European appearance.

Wasps soon offered Ulster a lifeline, however, as a horror pass from Christian Wade under minimal pressure in his own half gifted the ball to Ludik. He combined well with Cave before Reidy popped up on the ball and he finished superbly to the right of the posts, getting past two despairing defenders.

Cooney's conversion restored parity, and after a series of turnovers going against Ulster in the middle of the park, the inevitable Wasps backlash ended with a try just after the half hour mark. Hooker Tom Cruse dived onto Willie le Roux's smart kick to the corner with all the pace and poise of a first-choice winger.

Another successful conversion from Cipriani, which left Ulster trailing 14-7, was again followed by the loss of an Ulster starting wing. This time Ludik succumbed to a head injury and made way, just before the break, for Johnny McPhillips, who only made his Champions Cup debut in round 5. The 20-year-old slotted in at full-back with Piutau moving to the wing.

A strong start to the second half from Wasps saw fine footwork from le Roux almost carve an opening down the left wing for Thompson once more. It was snuffed out only by some desperate Ulster defending to drag the flanker into touch inches from the try-line.

But again Ulster contrived to surrender possession, this time from their own five-metre scrum, and Cipriani's long pass found South African le Roux's diagonal run into acres of space for try number three.

12 points adrift on 50 minutes, a poor pass out wide from Lealiifano to Timoney almost sealed Ulster's fate as Cruse picked up the loose ball and charged for the line, only to be brought down just short of the whitewash by three Ulster defenders.

The breakthrough took only five minutes to come, however, when the power of the Wasps forwards proved too much for their tiring Ulster counterparts and prop Jake Cooper-Woolley stretched over to secure the bonus point for the Englishmen.

With a quarter of the game left to salvage something, a Lealiifano knock-on and then a surrendered lineout did little to help the Ulster cause, before a foolish late charge from O'Connor presented Wasps with close range lineout ball.

The attack came to nothing, but brought an unfortunate end to Lealiifano's Ulster swansong, as the Australia-bound out-half picked up a shoulder injury in the tackle and made way for David Shanahan with eight minutes to go. Late Ulster pressure ended with yet another knock-on - this time from replacement Chris Henry - to seal a miserable afternoon for the province.

Reflecting on a frustrating day at the office for his side, Ulster director of rugby Kiss said: "We're disappointed. We had control of the pool, we prepared well. We went out and I thought there was plenty of attitude and energy. The components of our game were there to do something special.

"We gave Wasps too much, there were a few errors at critical times that gave them field position. Fair play to them, they played the conditions well. They had a cutting edge when they needed it.

""Losing Jacob, you don't like those things. We lost Louis as well, it certainly shifted the shape of things, but I think the resolve and physicality was still there. We just couldn't get consistency of pressure on them by holding onto the ball and making our little line-breaks matter.

"Christian got another blow, he's been hit late a few times during his time with us at Ulster, but we recognised his contribution in the sheds afterwards. He's been brilliant for us."
No ALT tag specified