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Ulster overhaul Bath
Visitors pipped after being gifted two tries
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Ulster moved second in Pool Four of the Heineken Cup on Saturday after coming from behind to secure a 22-18 victory against Bath at Ravenhill.
The Magners League side came into the match placed behind Bath in the standings and knew it would therefore be of the 'must-win' variety. They did just that - but they certainly made life difficult for themselves.
Ulster dominated territory and possession but also produced an error-strewn display - mistakes both leading directly to tries scored by Jack Cuthbert and Lewis Moody for Bath in the first half.
However, Steve Meehan's side, who have just one win in six matches since their last Cup outing, then made a howler of their own which led to Pedrie Wannenburg's response for Ulster.
In a frenetic, intense match, Bath led until the final quarter but despite leading the try-count, five penalties and one conversion from Ulster fly-half Ian Humphreys left the Premiership club with only the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Making his 200th appearance in place of Shontayne Hape at inside centre, Olly Barkley kicked Bath ahead with a simple penalty after two minutes but their defence was under pressure four minutes later when a break inspired by Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris placed them very much on the back foot.
However, as Ulster attempted to work the ball out left, Humphreys' pass was instead intercepted by Cuthbert and the big full-back ran the length of the pitch to touch down on his Heineken Cup debut.
Barkley kicked the extras, leaving Ulster 10-0 down having just seconds earlier been in a position to take the lead.
They put their first points on the board soon after though when Humphreys found the target after Danny Grewcock was penalised, but his long-range effort went wide just before the mid-way point of the opening period.
The home side's mistakes - they lost possession once more having put together a number of phases - were again punished in the 23rd minute when Adam D'Arcy failed to deal with Michael Claassens' high ball, with Moody pouncing and evading a tackle on the left flank to cross the line.
Barkley this time missed the conversion but the crowd's silence told its own story. However, a timely ray of hope for Ulster then came when Bath prop David Flatman was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Humphreys kicked the resulting penalty to the corner and three more followed as Ulster's scrum camped close to the whitewash.
The last went the way of Bath to provide temporary respite but they then made a critical error themselves when Simon Taylor's pass went straight to Wannenburg in the 33rd minute, with Humphreys subsequently converting before adding a superb long-range penalty seconds before half-time.
Ulster could not maintain their momentum at the start of the second half as Barkley soon booted Bath five points in front but they then applied pressure - over 20 phases' worth of it. Tom Court was inches short by the posts but all the hard work was undone when Humphreys' pass wide to Nevin Spence was mis-placed.
Even so, play was brought back for a simple penalty which Humphreys converted in the 54th minute and with a period of frenetic, if ultimately futile, play coming from both sides inbetween, he kicked another just past the hour to put Ulster one point ahead.
They certainly had the wind in their sails now and with Andrew Trimble having gone closest as Ulster piled up the phases once more, Humphreys kicked another penalty after 65 minutes.
Bath needed a try and could conceivably have had one when they gained turnover ball once more with 10 minutes remaining.
However, although Barkley and Cuthbert quickly made inroads, the move fell down owing to the presence of the wrong sort of player - second row Stuart Hooper losing possession - out wide.
They then won a penalty with two minutes remaining but as Bath pressed for the line, victory was assured when Trimble tackled and managed to dispossess Matt Banahan.Heineken Cup. Click here to bet.