Ulster keep play-off hopes alive with Quins win
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Ulster kept the dream of a European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final berth alive with a 52-24 triumph over Harlequins a thrilling Friday encounter at the Kingspan Stadium.
An impressive bonus-point victory means Irish province Ulster Rugby have moved within two points of Pool one runaway leaders La Rochelle, who take on Wasps this Sunday.
Ulster Rugby scrumhalf John Cooney was at the heart of all the action, contributing 27 points to home side's efforts, while Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy, Charles Piutau, Alan O'Connor and Andrew Trimble all chalked up tries in a comprehensive victory.
Cooney opened the scoring with two penalties in the opening 10 minutes, before England prodigy Marcus Smith slid in a try for Harlequins, although his missed conversion meant the hosts still had the lead.
Ulster Rugby would extend that lead as centre McCloskey beat the Harlequins defence to a loose ball as the hosts moved 13-5 up, only for Charlie Walker's try, converted by flyhalf Smith, to bring the visitors back within a point.
Cooney's third penalty kick of the game offered a small buffer to Ulster Rugby, who headed into the break 16-12 up, despite Harlequins producing the better play in the first period.
In an incredibly expansive encounter, Ulster Rugby wing Gilroy and fullback Piutau both dotted down 15 minutes into the second period.
Harlequins fullback Ross Chisholm offered some hope to travelling fans with a try on his European Rugby Challenge Cup starting debut, but O'Connor was soon over at the opposite end as Ulster Rugby ran riot.
Flank Dave Ward did clinch a try-scoring bonus-point for Harlequins, but Cooney and Trimble would have the final say as Ulster Rugby put a fine gloss on an eye-opening display in Belfast.
Tries: McCloskey, Gilroy, Piutau, O'Connor, Cooney, Trimble
Cons: Cooney 5
Pens: Cooney 4
Tries: Smith, Walker, Chisholm, Ward
Cons: Smith, Walker
Yellow Card: Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 60 - deliberate obstruction)
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson (captain), 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Matty Rea, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Andrew Trimble.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Dave Ward (captain) 6 Archie White, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Dino Lamb, 21 James Lang, 22 Tim Visser, 23 Mike Brown.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Cédric Clave (France)
TMO: Éric Briquet-Campin (France)