Having switched from the Guinness Premiership to the Heineken Cup, Bath Rugby were faced with a tough test at Ravenhill against an in-form Ulster and whilst the team made a promising start, it was not enough to hold off the boys in Belfast and the first meeting of these two sides in the Heineken Cup ended in a 26-12 defeat to Bath Rugby.
With the rain lashing down long before kick off, the conditions were far from perfect. However, Bath Rugby began the game making a firm statement of intent keeping Ulster from leaving their own half for the opening minutes and forcing an offence when Ulster were penalised for dragging down the maul. Ryan Davis stepped up to take the penalty and landed a kick that slotted directly between the posts for the opening points.
Ulster did not wait long to equalise however making their first move inside the opposition 22 and forcing an infringement of their own. Ulster's fly half Ian Humphreys also made a successful kick and the score was three-all after 10 minutes.
Eager to extend the lead some swift interplay from Ulster's Darren Cave and Clinton Schifcofske paved the way for Timoci Nagusa to thrash over the line for five. A conversion from fly half Humphreys took the home side seven points ahead just three minutes after they had levelled the scores.
On the stroke of 20 minutes, Bath were able to grab back three points as Davis planted a strong penalty kick directly between the posts following an obstruction from O'Donohue
It was not for a further 10 minutes that either side looked close to notching up their points, although Bath continued to threaten. Good defensive work saw Bath fend off the advance inside their 22 from the Ulstermen after a grubber kick rolled into touch after bouncing off Nick Abendanon. But the full-back made up for his error a few minutes later by blasting down the midfield, off-loading to Davis and then finishing the move with a grubber kick of his own into touch on the hosts 22 metre line. However, as the minutes counted down to the end of the first half, the boys in blue, black and white (camouflage) were unable to get through the Ulster defence and the whistle blew on 10-6.to the Belfast boys.
The second half saw the Ulster fly half notch some rapid extra points for his time, in a bid to correct the missed penalty he had kicked just moments before the break. This time, he didn't miss, and Humphreys' three points acted as an impetus for his forwards as they turned the heat up on the Bath line.
In response Davis kept up his 100% kicking record in this match and stroked over a penalty in the 47th minute after an off-side offence from Ulster. But, it was not enough to keep the Ravenhill contingent at bay and as they charged down two attempted clearances by Davis, it was not long before Willie Faloon made use of Bath's errors to cross the line for a try. Humphreys converted, taking the score to 20-9 after 52 minutes.
As the intensity heightened, Davis kicked a fourth and final penalty, but with a mirrored action being taken by Humphreys two minutes later, Davis's penalty failed to award Bath with the advantage that was so desperately needed.
Instead, as the half wore on, frustration was prevalent and Andy Beattie was red-carded after a suspected stamping offence. The result was yet another penalty from Ulster which took them up to a 26-12 lead, spelling a bitterly disappointing loss for Bath Rugby.
However, competitions are never won or lost after just one match and Bath Rugby will be able to take away with them the knowledge of what they must correct to dominate the European stage in the manner that they should.