It was a breathtaking finale to a pulsating match in Belfast as Ulster held on to win 34-31 against Clermont on Saturday evening.
Tries from Michael Lowry, Rob Herring, Duane Vermeulen and Robert Baloucoune saw the Ulstermen steam ahead to a 22-point lead.
However, the Camille Lopez-inspired Jaunards roared back late in the second half and were anxious to steal a victory and guarantee their progression to the next round of the Heineken Champions Cup.
With many twist and turns to this game, here are the player ratings after a frantic 80 minutes at the Kingspan Stadium:
Michael Lowry - 9
Martin Lawrence wishes he was this cool. Cut open the Clermont defence as he got in for his first try. Fearless under the high ball all night. His running and evasive manoeuvres banged of prime Shane Williams. Hugo Keenan, whatcha gonna do when he comes for you?
Robert Baloucoune - 7
He may have had a quiet game overall, but his contributions proved pivotal tonight. Scored the try which was the difference on the scoreboard at full time. Brilliant tackle to shove Cancoriet out into touch and quash the Clermont comeback once and for all.
James Hume - 8
A handful for Les Jaunards, he sparkled tonight. Twirled and pirouetted through the Clermont defenders throughout the evening. A bad read in defence allowed the away side in for the try which kept him within 10 points of the Ulster lead. Made up for it with a crucial tackle as the game hung in the balance. Surely an Ireland cap beckons.
Angus Curtis - 7
As European debuts go, it was a solid performance from Curtis. A crunching tackle on Tiberghien was the highlight of a good day in defence. He was willing to make risky passes in attack and had Hume held onto his beautiful offload, it would have been a certain try for his midfield partner. Left the game on the hour mark due to cramp.
Ethan McIlroy - 6
The quieter wing tonight, McIlroy made good use of the ball when it found its way out to his side. Wonderfully chased down a Burns kick and proved himself a useful member of a sharp Ulster attack.
Billy Burns - 7
Pulling the strings in the centre, that quiet confidence has returned to Burns’ game. Gave his forwards - and his team generally - a great platform for attacks with his kicks to the corner from the constant flow of Clermont penalties.
Nathan Doak - 7
Missed two albeit difficult conversion kicks, and his box-kicking was a little wayward early on. But then he found his rhythm. His distribution from the ruck was quick and clinical, never letting the Clermont defence get settled. Meanwhile, he also put in a fair shift in defence. He still has some learning ahead of him, but a run-out at some stage during the Six Nations would do his development no harm.
Eric O’Sullivan - 5
Came in for the injured Andy Warwick and couldn’t get the upper hand in the scrum when packing down against the experienced Rabah Slimani.
Rob Herring - 7
Lineout throwing was good from the Ulster #2, and managed to sneak not one, but *two* tries from the back of a rampaging Ulster maul. Andy Farrell is going to have a seriously tough time picking between him and Sheehan for his backup hooker.
Marty Moore - 5
Tough day at scrum time, and didn’t feature too much beyond that.
Alan O’Connor - 6
A high penalty count may not reflect well on a captain, but O’Connor’s impact as a leader showed tonight. Once he had come off, things began to unravel and Clermont clawed their way back into the game.
Kieran Treadwell - 7
With a strong carry in Ulster’s first passage of attacking play, Treadwell threw down the gauntlet early in this game. Imperious in the lineout, the lock gave his side really useful ball for attacks.
Marcus Rea - 6
A nuisance in the ruck, Rea fit in well for his older brother Matty this evening. Guilty of giving away a few penalties, but contributed to a robust all-round performance from the Ulster back row.
Nick Timoney - 6
Showed his slick handling skills early in the first with a great offload to Billy Burns. He also got through a serious amount of work this evening at the breakdown.
Duane Vermeulen - 7
He has a few games under his belt already for the northern province, but tonight felt like Vermeulen had truly arrived for Ulster. Got a try for his trouble, but he was immense across the park. He could be a major asset for them in the next stage of the competition.
Team of Us. Everyone In.
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