Despite defeat at Ravenhill, Bath Rugby are still very much in contention after securing a losing bonus point from the game. Final Score 22-18
Some rare winter sunshine greeted Bath as they ran out onto the pitch at Ravenhill for the third round Heineken Cup fixture, as Olly Barkley led the side out to commemorate his 200th appearance in the Blue, Black and White.
It was Barkley who got the scoreboard ticking over first, securing an early and easy penalty in the first two minutes to give the visitors an early lead. This was swiftly followed by a try from full-back Jack Cuthbert, who sprinted the length of the pitch to score just outside the posts. Man of the Match, Stephen Ferris, found a gap in the Bath defence and had broken through to lead an onslaught on the Bath try line. The defence stood strong however, forcing the home side to throw the ball out wide, only for Cuthbert to pluck the ball from the air, and race away to get the score. Barkley converted, to give the visitors a 0-10 lead in the opening ten minutes.
A highly competitive match began to be played out, with a penalty from Ian Humphreys giving the home side a much-needed boost. However, another try for Bath in the 23rd minute saw them extend the lead.
A break from a Bath lineout led to Nick Abendanon chipping the ball on, which Ulster failed to gather, spilling the ball backwards for the waiting Lewis Moody to pounce on and sprint towards the line to go over for his first try in Bath colours. A tight conversion was just missed by Barkley, with the ball rebounding off the far post. 3-15.
Moments later though luck turned against Bath with David Flatman being shown a yellow card for a supposed high tackle on Tom Court. Camped on the Bath line, Ulster repeatedly opted for the scrum, hoping to have gained some advantage following the sin-binning, however, the scrum worked in Bath's favour, with the referee penalising the home side for an early engagement, much to their vocal supporters' displeasure.
However, it wasn't long before they had something to cheer about, as Ulster scored an intercept try of their own. Number 8 Pedrie Wannenburg plucked a loose pass out of the air and charged through the gap to go over for the try. Humphreys converted, reducing the deficit for the home side to just five points with five minutes left of the first half. This was soon reduced by a further three points as Humphreys slotted another penalty from the halfway line, after Bath were penalised for collapsing the scrum, meaning that the two sides went in at half time with just two points between them, 13-15.
Bath started the second half brightly, with some great linking play from the backs putting the visitors in a good position. A collapsed scrum from Ulster meant that Barkley had the chance to extend the lead again, which he duly did, despite kicking into the sun. 13-18.
However, Ulster quickly gained possession and started dominating the game, spending large amounts of time attacking in the Bath 22, only to be kept out by the strong Bath defence. Momentum was with the home side though, and two penalties swiftly followed, giving them the lead for the first time in the game, and taking the score to 19-18.
Humphreys extended the home sides lead moments later, after Bath were penalised for not releasing from the tackle, 22-18.
Bath refused to give up however, and soon developed some attacking momentum, spending much of the last quarter of the match in the Ulster 22, but the Irish remained strong in defence, and managed to see off the last waves of attack from the visitors. Final score 22-18.
However, with a losing bonus point from this match, and a small helping hand from Aironi, who beat Biarritz 28-27, Bath are still in contention for qualification, with all to play for in the return fixture next weekend.