Ulster exit on a high as Darren Cave’s hat-trick mauls Tigers

Ulster 26Leicester Tigers 7

ULSTER ENDED THEIR miserable European Champions Cup campaign on a winning note as they thumped Leicester Tigers 26-7 at Ravenhill to end the English side’s hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Darren Cave scored a hat-trick as Ulster ran in four tries to finish their underwhelming European season with a bonus point victory to finish ahead of Scarlets in Pool 3.

Having won just one of their previous five group outings, Neil Doak’s side were determined to give their home support something to shout about and, right from the off, the hosts were purposeful.

Leicester, who required five points from their visit to Belfast in order to give themselves  a chance of progression, were unable to contain Cave and the returning Iain Henderson.

Henderson, who was making his first appearance of the season, provided an added element of physicality to the Ulster pack as the Irish province bullied the Tigers at the breakdown.

It wasn’t until the 19th minute, however, that they were rewarded with points on the scoreboard. After a period of sustained pressure, Ulster recycled possession before an overlap on the right wing resulted in Cave touching down in the corner.

The 27-year-old, who featured for Ireland against Georgia during the November internationals, then scored either side of the interval to convert Ulster’s dominance into points.

The bonus point wasn’t long in coming as Gilroy crossed the line a couple of phases after an enterprising break which saw the winger beat four green shirts.

Leicester were down and out but rallied with an element of desperation. Adam Thompstone reduced the deficit but despite throwing wave after wave of attack at Ulster, the wall of white shirts held firm even when Callum Black and then Wiehahn Herbst were sin-binned.

The Premiership side join Ulster in crashing out of Europe as Toulon, who comfortably beat the Scarlets, top Pool 3.

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Elsewhere, Racing Metro confirmed their top spot in Pool 5 with a 32-8 win at the Northampton Saints, handing the English side their worst defeat of the season.

Northampton still made the last eight, however, as one of the best runners-up.

Racing wing Juan Imhoff scored two tries, with full-back Benjamin Lapeyre and Wales international centre Jamie Roberts also touching down.

Ulster: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), W Herbst; A O’Connor F Van Der Merwe; I Henderson, M McComish, R Wilson.

Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, B Ross, L Stevenson, C Ross, N McComb, P Marshall, M Allen.

Leicester: M Tait; A Thompstone, V Goneva, S Bai, M Benjamin; F Burns, B Youngs (capt); M Ayerza, T Youngs, L Mulipola; G Kitchener, G Parling; T Croft, J Salvi, J Crane.

Replacements: L Ghiraldini, M Rizzo, F Balmain, S De Chaves, R Barbieri, S Harrison, O Williams, N Morris.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere

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