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Stormers hold on as late Ulster try is disallowed in Cape Town

By PA
(Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Ulster had a 78th-minute try disallowed as they slipped to a 23-20 URC defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town. Dan McFarland’s men looked to have snatched the first victory by a northern hemisphere side in South Africa in the championship at the death, but a lengthy TMO review ruled that the ball had been knocked from Callum Reid’s grasp as he went over.

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The Irish province paid the price for conceding two tries in the opening seven minutes, with Paul de Wet and Leolin Zas both going over and Manie Libbok converting both. Marty Moore and Stuart McCloskey responded for Ulster on either side of half-time and John Cooney kicked ten points.

However, a trio of Libbok penalties proved enough to keep the Stormers’ noses in front as Ulster missed a chance to turn up the heat on leaders Leinster, who they trailed by a single point coming into the weekend.

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Stormers defence coach Norman Laker speaks about Duane Vermeulen against Evan Roos
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Stormers defence coach Norman Laker speaks about Duane Vermeulen against Evan Roos

The Stormers scored a combined 15 tries in their URC matches against Zebre Parma and Cardiff over the previous two weekends and looked set to continue their free-scoring form after a pair of early tries. Warrick Gelant released Zas in the second minute, with the winger eventually passing inside to de Wet to sprint over.

Zas then crossed himself when he was found in space on the left wing, shortly after Gelant had been stopped agonisingly short on the opposite flank. Libbok converted both tries for an early 14-0 lead, but the deficit was halved in the 22nd minute when Moore barged his way over from close range and Cooney converted following a period of sustained Ulster pressure.

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A penalty carried Libbok past 100 URC points for the season, but Ulster were dominating possession and territory and a pair of Cooney efforts from the tee made it 17-13. Libbok split the posts from 40 metres to re-establish the seven-point cushion with the last action of the first half and took it back to ten after 54 minutes.

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However, McCloskey squeezed his way between two Stormers tacklers to touch down three minutes later and Cooney converted to set up a tense finish. Ulster were celebrating when Reid crashed over two minutes from time, but – just as Billy Burns was lining up the conversion – a lengthy TMO deliberation fell in the Stormers’ favour as the South Africans held on for a third straight win in a dramatic finish.

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