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Ulster hold off Clermont Auvergne comeback to win again in Champions Cup

By PA

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Ulster secured second seeding in Pool A of the Heineken Champions Cup after running in five tries to beat Clermont Auvergne 34-31 in Belfast.

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The hosts held off a spirited fightback from their French opponents to make it four wins from four in the pool stages.

Clermont fought back from 34-12 down, scoring three tries to secure a losing bonus point which might be enough to get them through to the round of 16.

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Ireland Six Nations squad members Rob Herring, Michael Lowry, James Hume, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney all shone for Ulster, with Herring bagging two tries while Lowry and Robert Baloucoune got one each.

Ulster’s other try scorer was Duane Vermeulen while Nathan Doak kicked two conversions and a penalty, with Billy Burns kicking one two-pointer.

Seven minutes in and Rob Herring bashed his way over the line after Ulster had put two penalties into the corner. The try was unconverted as Doak’s conversion hit the upright.

Morgan Parra then narrowed Ulster’s lead to two points with a 12th-minute penalty and put Clermont into the lead six minutes later after the French side had secured a scrum penalty.

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Lowry then scorched over from a penalty advantage after 22 minutes though Doak was again wide with the extras.

But Clermont again punished the home team with Parra landing his third penalty after 25 minutes to cut Ulster’s lead to 10-9.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, Ulster were again pinged at the breakdown and Parra slotted his fourth penalty from as many attempts which nudged Clermont ahead 12-10.

After Ethan McIlroy was held short, Alivereti Raka was yellow-carded for not rolling away and from the penalty, Ulster put it into the corner with Herring again driving over off the back of the maul after 39 minutes. This time Doak converted and Ulster led 17-12 at half-time.

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Five minutes into the new half, Clermont strayed offside and Doak kicked this penalty chance to make it 20-12 to the home side.

Ulster launched a multi-phase attack after 50 minutes which led to Lowry coming up short before Vermeulen barrelled over. Doak again converted.

A fifth try came five minutes after the hour as Lowry broke down the left and after some slick ball movement, Baloucoune was put clear by Burns who then converted.

Jacobus van Tonder galloped over for Clermont’s first try after good work from Damian Penaud though Camille Lopez missed the conversion.

Clermont, their bench making an impact, then scored again when Raka got on the end of a sweeping move, the score being converted by Lopez to cut Ulster’s lead to 10 points.

Skipper Judicael Cancoriet then touched down with five minutes left, with Lopez’s conversion cutting Ulster’s lead to 34-31 but the hosts held on.

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