John Cooney was Harlequins’ tormentor-in-chief once again as he kept Ulster’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final prospects firmly on course with a 34-10 bonus-point victory.
Six days on from kicking the late penalty that handed Ulster a crucial 25-24 win in Belfast, the Irish scrum-half was at it again at the Stoop.
Cooney scored two superb tries, denied Quins a certain score with his covering defence early in the second half and kicked three conversions and a penalty.
Luke Marshall, Matt Faddes and Tom O’Toole also crossed for the visitors, with Ulster making it four wins from four and setting up a pool-deciding trip to Clermont Auvergne in round five.
Quins, whose slim qualification hopes ended, will undoubtedly be sick of the sight of Cooney, who picked up right where he left off last week by booting a seventh-minute offside penalty.
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Ulster dominated the opening quarter in both possession and territory without finding a telling score, although the irrepressible Marcell Coetzee came closest with a barrelling break down the left flank.
Aside from occasional glimpses of the running rugby they are capable of – Cadan Murley making a determined charge out of his own 22 – Quins did not have their first attack until after the half-hour mark.
Stephan Lewies appeared to have spurned the initial chance by knocking on in the tackle following a line break but a few phases later Travis Ismaiel almost went over in the corner, before settling for a James Lang penalty.
‘I always wanted to try being a head coach and give it a go, but I was never tripping over myself to do it’
– @dan10mcfarland talks to @heagneyl about @UlsterRugby, @JCooney09, @ChampionsCup and the arrival on Saturday of @Harlequins at the Kingspanhttps://t.co/GVa10gOMX9
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 7, 2019
However, Ulster led 10-3 at the break thanks to a scintillating length-of-the-field try. Billy Burns made the initial break, handing-off a defender and offloading to a streaking Jacob Stockdale, before Cooney completed the score by sliding over following Faddes’ pass inside.
Early in the second half, Quins almost replicated that but Ross Chisholm was hauled down by Cooney five metres short after a brilliant 40-metre break by Semi Kunatani. And Ulster increased the hosts’ frustration shortly after by getting their second try, when Marshall collected Stuart McCloskey’s clever grubber through and powered over the line.
The game began to get out of hand for Quins as Cooney kicked through from the base of a ruck, gathered the ball and touched down for try number three on the hour mark, with his third conversion making it 24-3.
Ulster's John Cooney sounds like he is hoping new Ireland boss Andy Farrell is into poetryhttps://t.co/FMNcIvNaFl
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 12, 2019
Powerful lock Lewies did burrow over from close range shortly after to give the home fans some joy but Ulster capitalised on an overthrown Quins lineout to seal the bonus point late on.
Faddes made the most of an overlap to power over in the right corner after that set-piece mistake and there was even time for a fifth Ulster try as O’Toole dotted down with the final play.
– Press Association
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