- Ulster 20 - 13 La Rochelle
By Ciaran Donaghy
Ulster go into the final pool game of the European Champions Cup with their destiny in their own hands after a stunning win over La Rochelle at Kingspan Stadium.
Ulster lead Pool One and a bonus point win against Wasps at the Richo Arena next Sunday would guarantee Les Kiss’ men qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.
The French side arrived in Belfast top of the group and second in the Top 14, but hadn't won on the road in their last four attempts.
And Ulster proved more clinical, out-scoring the French side by three tries to one.
La Rochelle dominated the open exchanges and were rewarded for their endeavour on eight minutes with a penalty from scrum half Alexi Bales, after Ulster were caught offside in their own 22.
Bales doubles the French side’s lead with his second penalty on 16 minutes after Ulster were guilty of an infringement at the lineout.
La Rochelle were reduced to 14 men on 23 minutes after replacement winger Paul Jordaan was yellow carded for taking Ulster full back Charles Piutau out in the air.
Ulster got back in the game on 27 minutes with a try from captain Rory Best, although scrum half John Cooney missed the conversion.
Ulster took the lead on 36 minutes with their second try, following a sustained period of pressure.
Prop Rodney Ah You charged through the visitors’ defence to carry close to the line, before Jacob Stockdale was the man to crash through the last defender and touch down in the corner.
Cooney couldn’t convert, but it gave Ulster a 10-6 lead at the interval.
La Rochelle regained the lead two minutes after the restart, when Bales went over and then converted his own try.
Ulster responded immediately though, when Darren Cave won the ball and put Timoney under the posts, with Cooney converting.
Cooney then extended Ulster’s lead with a simple penalty on 49 minutes - which proved to be the final score of the game.
La Rochelle wasted a chance to cut Ulster’s lead after a series of penalties in the home side’s 22.
Meanwhile, Ulster blew their chance to get the fourth try and a bonus point in the closing stages.
Replacement out half Johnny McPhillips threw a miss pass to the wing, but flanker Chris Henry stepped in touch with the try line at his mercy.