A bonus-point win in Italy gave Ulster a place in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the first time since they won the competition in 1999. It was not enough totake top spot in Pool Four – Biarritz's bonus-point victory over Bath meant that though Ulster won five of their six matches and finished level on 22 points with the French club, they lost out due to an inferior head-to-head record. Ulster will take one of the two places in the last eight for the best pool runners-up.
Their Springbok No 8, Pedrie Wannenburg, scored twice in a man-of-the-match display and tries from Andrew Trimble and Chris Henry and a penalty try wrapped up a bonus point before Simon Danielli rounded off the victory with a late score. The fly-half Ian Humphreys kicked 13 points, including a third-minute penalty that helped to settle any nerves. It was not until the 23rd minute that Ulster found their way over the Aironi line. Wannenburg and another South Africa international, the scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, combined before the full-back Adam D'Arcy showed strength to hand off the Aironi flanker Vickus Liebenberg and deliver a scoring pass for Trimble.
Aironi's New Zealander fly-half, James Marshall, dropped a goal after a break by the wing Pablo Canavosio. Humphreys was off target with a second penalty attempt moments later and after the replacement the Aironi scrum-half, Tito Tebaldi, stepped up to kick a long-range penalty, Ulster led 10-6 at half-time.
The Irish province took control of the match with a try in the first minute of the second half, Wannenburg touching down after an impressive forward drive. Five minutes later, Wannenburg scored again from almost the same move. Humphreys converted both tries and Ulster were looking much more comfortable at 24-6.
Trimble threatened again, catching his own high kick, bursting through tackles and forcing Aironi to concede a penalty. But with three tries in the bag Ulster were desperate to wrap up the bonus point and they opted to go for the line-out instead of the three points. Their first drive was held up short but from the resulting scrum Aironi's pack crumbled and the French referee, Christophe Berdos, walked under the poststo award a penalty try. Humphreys converted and Ulster could relax for thefinal 20 minutes.
It was from another scrum that they grabbed their fifth try, pushing Aironi off their own ball and handing a perfect attacking opportunity to Wannenburg. The Springbok powered forward before offloading to Henry, who picked his angle to perfection to cross the line for the try.
Wannenburg was again involved as Ulster finished off a rout with a sixth try, passing to Ian Whitten, who shipped on to Danielli. The big Scottish wing finished things off in the left corner.
Aironi J Laharrague (R Bocchino, 50); P Canavosio, R Penney, E Pavan (G Pizarro, 48), M Pratichetti; J Marshall, M Wilson (T Tebaldi, 13); M Aguero (S Perugini, 57), F Ongaro, F Staibano (A De Marchi, 67), M Bortolami, Q Geldenhuys (capt; C Del Fava, 57), V Liebenberg (A Birchall, 47), J Sole, J Erasmus.
Ulster A D'Arcy; A Trimble (D McIlwaine, 64), N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (P Marshall, 66); T Court (T Barker, 67), N Brady (I Whitten, 67), D Fitzpatrick (B Young, 57), J Muller (capt), D Tuohy (J Cronin, 67), S Ferris (C Henry, 57), P Wannenburg, W Faloon.
Referee C Berdos (France).
Tries: Trimble, Wannenburg 2, Henry, penalty, Danielli
Cons: Humphreys 5
Pen: HumphreysReuse content