Blin blasts Ulster as Stade exploit Irish mistakes

Stade Français 30 - Ulster 10
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The Independent Online

Ulster gave away so much ball in Paris that they had no chance of upsetting the champions of France. Stade were below their best and finished disappointed at not securing a bonus point through a fourth try. But they had done much as they pleased with Ulster in the first hour because the Irishmen made so many mistakes and failed to control the ball.

Ulster gave away so much ball in Paris that they had no chance of upsetting the champions of France. Stade were below their best and finished disappointed at not securing a bonus point through a fourth try. But they had done much as they pleased with Ulster in the first hour because the Irishmen made so many mistakes and failed to control the ball.

Ulster lost eight of their first 11 throws at the line-out, an inelegant suicide note on a cold, bright afternoon. Worse still, their first-up tackling was shaky and often exposed, allowing Stade to get in behind their defensive line.

Stade overran them for long periods of the first half, yet scrambling defence and the home side's over-elaboration meant they managed only a 9-3 half-time lead, thanks to three penalty goals from David Skréla to one by David Humphreys. Stade found another gear at the start of the second half and, aided by two refereeing mistakes, scored twice in the first 17 minutes of the period and the match was over.

The first try came from their hooker and captain, Mathieu Blin, who was driven over from a line-out. But half the Stade pack were offside in front of the ball-carrier. It should have been a penalty to Ulster.

Worse followed for the Irishmen when the Argentinian prop Rodrigo Roncero lost the ball forward in midfield, but play continued. Eventually, from another line-out near the Ulster line, the Canadian second-row Mike James was driven over.

"We looked nervous early on and our major problem was we couldn't get our hands on the ball," said Ulster's coach, Mark McCall. "We defended dreadfully in the first 10 minutes but brilliantly thereafter. But it wasn't until the last 25 minutes that we began to play some rugby. We weren't able to before that."

Stade's driving mauls were fast and dynamic. The French complained bitterly to David Pearson at half-time that Ulster were pulling them down and, low and behold, the English referee penalised Ulster for the offence twice in the first three minutes of the second half. From those positions, Stade scored.

Ulster's No 8, Roger Wilson, battled bravely to stem the tide and the Test centre Kevin Maggs tackled courageously. But almost all the invention came from Stade, and only their first-half failings prevented a wider margin of victory.

It was not until Stade had added a third try through the wing Mirco Bergamasco in the 66th minute, after Brian Liebenberg had broken through the first line of Ulster defence almost to the goal-line, that the Irishmen finally woke up in an attacking sense. But at 30-3 it was far too late.

The Ulster wing Tommy Bowe got a try 12 minutes from time, leaping to catch a cross-kick from Humphreys under the posts. Humphreys converted, but by then Ulster's technical errors had been heavily punished. Skréla converted all three Stade tries.

Stade Français: C Dominici; Mirco Bergamasco, S Glas, B Liebenberg, R Poulain (O Sarramea, 61); D Skréla (G Quesada, 68), J Fillol; R Roncero (Y Montes, 69), M Blin (capt; A Castola, 69), P Lemoine (Roncero, 81), O Brouzet (D Auradou, 82), M James (A Marchois, 80), R Jechoux, S Sowerby, P Rabadan.

Ulster: B Cunningham; S Young, J Bell (P Steinmetz, 67), K Maggs, T Bowe; D Humphreys, K Campbell (N Doak, 75); R McCormack, P Shields (N Brady, 55), R Moore, R Frost (G Longwell, 40), M McCullough, C Feather (capt), R Wilson, N Best.

Referee: D Pearson (England).

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