Champions Cup: George Barton the hero for Gloucester in dramatic win over Ulster
Replacement Barton grabbed a try on the final play of the game. Other scores from Louis Rees-Zammit, Mark Atkinson and two penalty tries secured the bonus point; Ulster kept in the contest despite having three men sin-binned
Last Updated: 19/12/20 6:16pm
George Barton came off the bench to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for Gloucester in a see-saw 38-34 win over Ulster in Saturday's Champions Cup Pool 2 clash at Kingsholm.
Louis Rees-Zammit put Gloucester ahead early on and although Billy Burns went over against his old side, a penalty try following a sustained spell of pressure and yellow cards for both Rob Herring and Alan O'Connor saw the hosts lead by 10 points.
However, the Cherry and Whites could not make the most of that numerical advantage and a penalty from John Cooney pulled it back to 17-10 at half-time, although Mark Atkinson's converted score put the hosts 14 points clear soon after the restart.
Ulster managed to claw their way back into the contest to lead though via a Michael Lowry, Cooney and a penalty try with 11 minutes to play, but another penalty try to the hosts - which saw Ethan McIlroy sin-binned - set the stage for 20-year-old Barton to grab the win on the final play of the game.
The build-up to the match for Gloucester had been dominated by the news of former England international Danny Cipriani's departure from the club with immediate effect, but the hosts responded by delivering arguably their best performance under head coach George Skivington just six days after they were routed 55-10 by Lyon.
Skivington made 12 changes from the side crushed by the French side, with only full-back Kyle Moyle, prop Ciaran Knight and captain Lewis Ludlow remaining. Burns, meanwhile, was among four switches in an Ulster side which also saw a start for Ireland back-row forward Jordi Murphy.
Playing in front of 2,000 fans at Kingsholm, Gloucester showed no sign of any hangover from their drubbing in Lyon, and they went ahead in the seventh minute through a cleverly-crafted try.
Centre Chris Harris made initial ground, then full-back Kyle Moyle cut a superb attacking angle before Rees-Zammit applied a quality finish on his return to club colours following Wales' Autumn Nations Cup campaign.
Lloyd Evans converted from the touchline, but it proved a short-lived advantage as Ulster drew level from their first attack. Impressive phase-play tested Gloucester's defence, before Burns skipped through a huge gap from 10 metres out to touch down against his former club, with Cooney converting.
Fly-half Evans restored Gloucester's advantage through a short-range penalty, before Ulster paid a hefty price for collapsing successive mauls close to their line. Referee Alex Ruiz sin-binned hooker Herring for the first one, then lock Alan O'Connor received a yellow card after he pulled down the next one, with Gloucester awarded a penalty try.
That left Ulster temporarily down to 13 men, but Gloucester could not capitalise on their numerical advantage, failing to score a point before both forwards returned. To make matters worse, Cooney kicked a penalty to cut a gap, and he also had a penalty chance from just inside his own half, but the ball fell over as he ran up with the allocated kicking time expired.
Having taken the lead into the interval, Gloucester took just two minutes of the second period to extend their lead - and again it was their forwards that did the damage, relentlessly driving a close-range lineout before centre Atkinson joined the charge and touched down for a try Evans converted via the posts into the face of a gusting wind.
Ulster needed a response, and it arrived eight minutes later when their backs carved open Gloucester's defence and Lowry applied an outstanding finish, followed by Cooney's conversion cutting the gap to seven points.
It got even better for Ulster approaching the hour-mark when they gained a penalty try following a deliberate knock-on by Rees-Zammit, leading to the Wales international being sin-binned.
Cooney then scored a try he converted, before a second penalty try for Gloucester was awarded after replacement McIlroy deliberately knocked on. He became his team's third player to be yellow-carded, then Barton struck.
The win revived Gloucester's hopes of progressing to the Champions Cup knock-out stages, but Ulster are pretty much down and out following two defeats.