Ulster maintain hopes with 8-try Oyonnax thrashing

 24 Jan 2016 - 0:00

Ulster maintain hopes with 8-try Oyonnax thrashing
Oyonnax's Georgian prop Giorgi Vepkhvadze is tackled by Ulster's US-born Irish prop Callum Black (L) and Ulster's South African lock Franco Van Der Merwe during the European Rugby Champions Cup pool 1rugby union match between Ulster Rugby and Oyonnax Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on January 23, 2016. (AFP / Paul Faith)


Paris: Ulster kept their European Champions Cup quarter-final hopes alive with an eight-try, bonus-point 56-3 victory over Oyonnax on Saturday.

Tries from Rob Herring, Darren Cave, Rory Scholes, Sean Reidy, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack, Ian Humphreys and Jared Payne meant Ulster finished the group stages on 18 points, well behind runaway pool A winners Saracens who ended with a perfect six wins from six after winning 28-17 at Toulouse.

But with only three of the five second-placed pool finishers reaching the knock-out stages, Ulster now face an anxious wait to see if they will be in the draw for the last eight.

The Belfast-based province were the last team from Ireland still in with a chance of reaching the knock-out stages but they started the day with the worst record of the five second-placed teams.

A bonus-point victory was a must, as well as piling on the points in case of a tie at the end of the pool stage.

Ulster wasted no time as Herring crossed the whitewash inside the first minute.

Cave was quickly back onto his feet after a breakdown to take a pass from full-back Payne and scamper over for the second try on 18 minutes.

Slick passing down the right allowed Scholes to score under the posts as Ulster worked the ball back inside once the initial break down the right had crossed the gainline.

Quick thinking from scrum-half Paul Marshall created a gap for Reidy to exploit to score the bonus-point fourth try just before half-time.

A quickly-taken line-out following more swashbuckling, attacking, running rugby allowed Gilroy to get his name on the scoresheet early in the second period.

Flanker Diack was next to score, shoved over from close range as Oyonnax struggled to stem the tide of white shirts pouring towards their line.

Oyonnax's sea of red shirts parted embarrassingly easily as replacement fly-half Humphreys scampered over between the posts.

Payne got his name on the scoresheet after more gaps opened up in the French defence, before Ulster started to run out of steam and Oyonnax finally showed a bit of pride, Samoa lock Maurie Fa'asavalu flattening Humphreys with a bone-crunching tackle that knocked the stuffing out of the fly-half.

Paddy Jackson kicked five conversions with Humphreys adding the other three.

Toulouse outscored Saracens by three tries to one but still lost and finished bottom of their European pool for the first time in their history.

The record four-time champions scored two tries through former New Zealand international fly-half Luke McAlister with Maxime Medard notching the other score.

Ben Spencer scored the only try for Saracens but Owen Farrell kicked 14 points with Charlie Hodgson chipping in with another nine to maintain 2014 finalists Sarries' perfect record in the competition this season.