Ulster do Cardiff a favour

Ulster 16 Begles-Bordeaux 29
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It is unlike the Irish to do the Welsh any favours - they knocked them out of the World Cup in June - but Ulster's battling performance against the top team in France earned Cardiff a place in the semi-finals of the Heineken European Cup last night.

Begles may have maintained their unbeaten record, just, but they never looked like winning by the required 41 points needed to give them a semi- final date with Leinster at Lansdowne Road on 30 December.

The French, who drew 14-14 with Cardiff in Bordeaux, stuck resolutely to their pre-match policy of "run, run and run", it brought them great encouragement in the shape of a fourth-minute try by the centre Sebastien Loubsens, but that did not spark a try avalanche. In fact, by the end they had more or less given up the European ghost and cast their minds towards matters domestic at the weekend and their championship clash with Montpellier.

With three players injured, and the semi-final place long gone, that was perhaps not surprising, although they signed off in rousing fashion with their fifth try, which covered virtually the length of the field.

Ulster's international forwards Denis McBride, Davy Tweed and Paddy Johns were outstanding in a home pack which never gave an inch, while Jonathan Bell was a solid rock at full-back. Ulster came within a few inches of crossing the Begles line in the closing five minutes and could even have snatched victory, but that Julien Berthe try at the death ensured the French went home with the spoils, if not the semi-final place they wanted.

Ulster: Tries Matchett, McBride. Penalties McCall 2. Begles-Bordeaux: Tries Loubsens 2, Fauthoux, Bernat-Salles, Berthe; Conversions Fauthoux, Berthe.

ULSTER: J Bell (Northampton); J Topping (Ballymena), B Harbinson (capt), M Field (both Malone), A Park (NIFC); M McCall (Bangor), A Matchett (Ballymena); R Mackey (Malone), A Clarke (Northampton), G Leslie (Dungannon), D Tweed (Ballymena), G Longwell (Ballymena), S Duncan (Malone), P Johns (Dungannon), D McBride (Malone).

Begles-Bordeaux: P Fauthoux; P Bernat-Salles, S Loubsens, E Darritchon, F Tauzin; J Berthe, X Pierre; L Dehez, S Morizot (V Chambouline, 50; F Garcia, 56), O Sourgens, A Berthozat (capt), C Mougeot (P Eyhartz, 18), S Conchy, J-J Allibert, P Farner.

Referee: W D Bevan (WRU).