Pienaar scores in Ulster win

Ruan Pienaar (Gallo)
Ruan Pienaar (Gallo)

Paris - Ulster kept their European Champions Cup hopes alive with their first ever win away to Toulouse on Sunday.

The Irish province still trail runaway Pool 1 leaders Saracens by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand, after the English side crushed Oyonnax 55-13 on Saturday.

But a second victory from three games for Ulster keeps them in with a shout of making the quarter-finals while the 25-23 reverse on Sunday all but ends record four-time champions Toulouse's interest in this season's competition after three defeats from four matches.

Tries from Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall put Ulster in the driving seat despite home scores from Gael Fickou and Louis Picamoles.

Toulouse came into the game smarting from last weekend's humiliating 38-0 reverse in Ireland and looking for swift revenge.

But despite dominating ball and territory in the first half, they paid for a lack of subtly.

Flyhalf Paddy Jackson kicked an early penalty for Ulster, who then defended doggedly to keep a predictable Toulouse at bay.

And when the Irish province made a rare foray into the French 22, they made it count.

Ulster's forwards bludgeoned they way up to the line until confusion reigned in the Toulouse defence, allowing South African scrumhalf Pienaar to pick the ball up from the back of a ruck and dive over unopposed.

Jackson, who converted the try, was then sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as Toulouse rumbled towards the Irish line.

Sebastien Bezy kicked a penalty for the hosts but disaster almost struck for Toulouse right at the end of the half against the 14 men.

Pushing for a late score beyond the half-time hooter, Toulouse lost possession and Ulster hit them with a remarkable length-of-the-field counter-attack that culminated with Rory Scholes crossing the whitewash.

But that was ruled out for a forward pass from Trimble earlier in the move, although Ulster still went back to the changing rooms leading 10-3.

Bezy kicked a second penalty early in the second half but right after Jackson returned to the pitch, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey made a stunning break through the middle and with Toulouse's scrambling defence back-tracking, Trimble dived over in the corner.

But the four-time champions came straight back and after Ulster resisted their pack from a metre out, Toulouse finally swung the ball wide where Fickou went over on the right.

Bezy converted and the misfiring French suddenly found themselves just two points behind.

Almost immediately, Andy Warwick gave away a stupid penalty and Bezy kicked Toulouse into a 16-15 lead.

But a Jackson penalty restored Ulster's lead before late on a clever inside pass from Alan O'Connor set up Marshall for the killer third try.

Toulouse threatened to make it a nervous finale when Picamoles was shoved over by his pack but Ulster easily held on.

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