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Saturday 18 August 2018

Ulster 'relishing' showdown with Saints

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin hailed his team's qualification for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup as a "fantastic achievement" after the 43-6 victory at Aironi at the weekend.

The province bridged a 12-year hiatus from the knockout stages of the tournament -- for the first time since they won the trophy in 1999 -- with a six-try salvo that earned a place in the quarter-finals.

That was not enough to clinch top spot in Pool Four, though, following Biarritz's bonus-point triumph over Bath.

McLaughlin said: "It's a fantastic achievement that has been a long time coming for everyone involved with Ulster over the year.

"It's a smashing day for us and we'll just have to wait for the outcome of the other games to see what the story will be in the quarter-final.

"But to be involved at that stage is a magnificent achievement."

He added: "In terms of Biarritz winning, well you can never rely on anyone else to do a job for you.

"You have to do it yourself so we came here to win and push for the bonus point and maybe that would keep things in our hands.

"But all credit to Biarritz -- they are a very good team."

Pedrie Wannenburg scored twice in a man-of-the-match display while tries from Andrew Trimble, Chris Henry and a penalty try wrapped up a bonus point before Simon Danielli capped the victory with a late try. Ian Humphreys also kicked 13 points.

Ulster were made to work hard, though, after taking a slender 10-6 lead into the break.

McLaughlin said: "We came out of the blocks in the first half and got an early penalty. We also scored a nice try but then we let Aironi come back at us.



FORCED

"We forced the game too much. We turned over ball at vital times and that put pressure on ourselves. But we stood strong in the second half, kept control and finally got the reward."

Wannenburg scored twice in the space of six minutes as Ulster seized control of the game at the start of the second half, before the South African number eight set up Henry's try and Danielli struck two minutes from time.

Ulster will travel to face Northampton in the last eight of the competition. The province's Director of Rugby David Humphreys is happy being labelled as underdogs.

"Just because we've made the knockout stages for the first time in a very long while doesn't mean we're happy to settle for that," said Humphreys.

"There's a belief within our squad at the moment and we'll relish the opportunity ahead of us," he added.

The former Ulster and Ireland fly-half acknowledged that the Premiership high-flyers would provide formidable opposition.

"They've plenty of depth and they're not the number one seeds for nothing," conceded Humphreys.

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