Ulster fight back to save European hopes

Rugby ball
Rugby ball

Paris - Ulster produced a stirring second half fightback to keep Irish interest alive in the European Champions Cup as they won 24-23 at Oyonnax on Sunday

Paddy Jackson kicked a penalty three minutes from time to complete a remarkable turnaround after Ulster went into the break trailing 23-0.

That kick kept alive their hopes of reaching the knock-out stages as they closed the gap to Pool 1 leaders Saracens to six points.

With Munster eliminated on Saturday after a 27-7 defeat at Stade Francais, who played the entire second half with 14 men but still dominated, Ulster were the only Irish province still able to progress to the quarter-finals -- Leinster were eliminated a month ago when losing to reigning champions Toulon.

But it looked bleak for the Irish when Ulster turned around at the break in France with a large deficit.

Oyonnax, who had already been eliminated themselves having lost all their previous matches, played without fear and scored a try through Jeremie Maurouard after just seven minutes.

Nicky Robinson kicked the conversion and three penalties before Uwanakaro Tawalo picked up a loose pass from deep inside his own 22 and broke clear to score a second try, also converted, on the stroke of half-time.

But Ulster showed great heart in the second period, in which they almost never let the hosts out of their own half.

Rory Scholes got them on the board just three minutes in before tries from Craig Gilroy and Kyle McCall, all converted by Jackson, made it a two-point game with 12 minutes left.

Oyonnax, playing in their first ever European Champions Cup campaign, couldn't hold out and Jackson had the final word.

Ulster probably still need to get a result away to Saracens in their final match in order to make the last eight, though.

On Saturday, Stade produced a stunning display to rout Munster with young flanker Sekou Macalou particularly impressive.

The French champions are just four points behind Pool 4 leaders Leicester, who have yet to play in Paris.

Racing 92 virtually assured their knock-out stage passage with a bonus point 34-10 victory over Glasgow that took the Parisians seven points clear of Northampton in Pool 3.

On Friday, Clermont beat Bordeaux-Begles 28-10 to take over top spot in Pool 2 from Ospreys.

The last match of the weekend sees champions Toulon host Bath.

This weekend's matches were all postponed following the Paris terror attacks last November that left 130 people dead.

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