Gloucester's Heineken Cup hopes were left hanging by a thread after they fell victim to a superb Ulster fightback at rainswept Ravenhill last night.
Jake Boer's men looked to have done enough in their quest for a priceless away victory which would have secured a win-or-bust Pool Six showdown with the French champions Stade Français on Sunday week.
But the 1999 European champions Ulster recovered from a 12-3 interval deficit to leave Gloucester floundering by scoring 11 unanswered second-half points through a Bryn Cunningham try and two David Humphreys penalties. Fly-half Humphreys landed his winning kick seven minutes from time, keeping alive Ulster's outside chance of a quarter-final place. Gloucester now have to beat Stade at Kingsholm, score at least four tries, register at least three more than their opponents and also stop Stade from collecting a losing bonus point.
Henry Paul, discarded by the England coach Andy Robinson during the world champions' defeat against Australia five weeks ago, emphatically showed he possesses a big-match temperament by kicking three penalties in terrible conditions.
And Simon Amor's 40th-minute drop-goal helped give Gloucester a healthy advantage before the wheels spectacularly came off their wagon. Paul found his range after 14 minutes, rifling over a kick just inside Ulster's half which deservedly edged Gloucester ahead. He doubled their lead with a 29th-minute penalty. Paul completed his penalty hat-trick after an Ulster scrum infringement five minutes before half-time. Humphreys then booted a long-range penalty to open Ulster's account.
Ulster struck first after the break, courtesy of Tommy Bowe catching a Humphreys kick and sending a supporting Cunningham over. Humphreys then had the final say, landing two penalties in six minutes. They were blows that could effectively end Gloucester's European adventure for another season.
Ulster: Try Cunningham; Penalties Humphreys 3. Gloucester: Penalties Paul 3; Drop Goals: Amor.
Ulster: Cunningham; Bowe, Maggs, Steinmetz, Howe (Wallace 69); Humphreys, Campbell; SBest, R Best (Shields 46), Moore (McCormick 80), Longwell (Frost 66), McCullough, Feather (Ward 60), N Best, Wilson.
Gloucester: Goodridge; Garvey, Fanolua, Paul, Bailey; Amor, Gomarsall; Bezuidenhout, Parkes, Vickery, Eustace, Brown, Boer, Hazell (Buxton 40), Balding (Forrester 73).
Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).Reuse content