Ulster Rugby vs Saracens

Frenchman felt he had no alternative but to issue Payne with a red card. What followed may have been forgotten by some, for in the immediate aftermath of Payne’s exit supporters’ hopes slumped. But somehow, drawing on every ounce of character and formidable skill, Ulster went in at the break in the lead, and after 80 minutes Saracens had prevailed by just two points. It was an epic game with so many sub-plots and twists and turns, but in the end Ulster’s European journey was ended, Saracens continued on its route. Tonight two great clubs meet again, in a Champions Cup Pool which surely does qualify as ‘a group of death’. McCall’s side took on Toulouse last Saturday at home and impressed, but perhaps regretted not securing a try bonus point. Ulster had hoped to continue to banish its ‘awayday blues’ with an encouraging win at tournament debutants Oyannax but will be fresh and prepared fully for a challenge from England’s best after the aborted visit to France. All over the Kingspan Stadium pitch will be intriguing match-ups: Farrell and Jackson, Trimble and Ashton, Cave and Barritt, Best and Brits, Henry and Burger, or any one of the Allianz Park club’s glittering back row cast list. And there’s a fascinating duel in the coaching booths, with Head Coach Neil Doak alongside Ulster’s new Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, who makes his competitive bow at home after protracted duty with Ireland. And McCall is once again in charge of the visitors, his tenure recently extended, and no wonder given his achievements in a club environment which is lavishly funded but which is extraordinarily demanding. His success is evidence – contrary to the glib cliché - that good guys can finish first. For this evening those filling every space at Kingspan will he that, for once, Ulster takes the spoils and provides a rare disappointment for one of its favourite sons. In a week which has reminded us of how fleeting the most cherished and valuable things in life can be, and how easily snuffed out, we can all celebrate how fortunate we are that in sport we have distractions and relief of such passion and pride.



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