Humphreys leaves Bath running out of steam

Ulster 22 Bath 18
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The Independent Online

After just over a quarter of this match, it looked as though Bath might be marching their way back into serious contention in Pool Four of the Heineken Cup. At the end of it, their dream of winning a second European crown seemed all but over.

News of Aironi's shock win over Biarritz meant that Bath's half-empty glass was filled with a little much-needed cheer, and the losing bonus point they picked up for going down by fewer than seven points could be valuable. But they could and should have had more.

"We were fortunate to be up but then we should have taken advantage of that, there's no doubt about it," said the Bath head coach, Steve Meehan, after watching his team shoot into and subsequently lose a 15-3 lead. "Our intensity in attack has to be the same as it is in defence because defensively it was a marvellous effort. This group is still anyone's, though. We've got two of the next three games at home and we've got to go to Biarritz, which we always knew would be a big game. That's the way it's shaping up."

After Olly Barkley had kicked a second-minute penalty, on his 200th appearance for Bath, the Ulster fly-half, Ian Humphreys, floated a pass straight into the hands of Jack Cuthbert. The Bath full-back had just enough in the tank to complete an 80-metre run to the line. Humphreys got his side on the board with a 12th-minute penalty but Ulster then gave Bath a second try. Lewis Moody scooped up a box kick and charged for the line and the Ulster hooker, Nigel Brady, fell off the tackle.

With Barkley having converted the first try and hit the post with the second, Bath found themselves with a 12-point lead with just over a quarter of the match played.

From there on in, however, it was all Ulster. In truth, it always had been, bar those two glaring and costly mistakes. Their South African No 8, Pedrie Wannenburg, matched Cuthbert with an interception try six minutes before the break and the rest of the game was dominated by the boot.

Barkley didn't miss another attempt but Humphreys had more shots at goal, kicking a penalty a minute before half-time and three more after the break, compared to a solitary success from Barkley.

Ulster: A D'Arcy; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court, N Brady, BJ Botha; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; S Ferris, P Wannenburg, C Henry (W Faloon, 56).

Bath: J Cuthbert; M Carraro (Barnes, 29-36), M Banahan, O Barkley, T Biggs (N Abendanon, 15); S Vesty, M Claassens (capt; M McMillan, 74); D Flatman (D Barnes, 69), L Mears (P Dixon, 65), D Wilson (D Bell, 61), S Hooper, D Grewcock (I Fernandez Lobbe, 61), A Beattie (B Skirving, 61), S Taylor, L Moody.

Referee: J Garces (France).