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Jim Neilly reports on Ulster's draw with Toulouse
 real 14k

Sunday, 22 October, 2000, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Ulster earn remarkable draw
David Humphreys
David Humphreys hit a injury-time conversion to earn Ulster a draw
Toulouse 35 Ulster 35

Ulster scored two converted tries in injury-time to force a remarkable draw against Toulouse in Sunday's Heineken Cup tie in France.

After an entertaining if error-ridden clash, Toulouse finally seemed to have subdued the Ulster challenge when they led 35-21 with normal time up.

However, Jonathan Bell crossed the Toulouse line under the posts in the third minute of over-time to put only a converted try between the teams.

Despite furious whistles from the home crowd, the referee saw fit to play another four minutes of injury-time and in the closing seconds, James Topping scored a brilliant try.

Pressure kicks

David Humphreys, who has missed similar pressure kicks for Ireland in the past, made no mistake on this occasion to give Ulster an unlikely draw.

With both defences looking shaky, the first half produced five tries.

Toulouse number eight Fabian Pelous was first to cross the line on 10 minutes after a charging Didier Lacroix picked up a long line-out throw from hooker Yannick Bru.

While Michel Marfaing missed the conversion, Toulouse were threatening to run Ulster ragged.

Static defence

The French team had an overlap in the 12th minute but the teasing kick from midfield aimed at young full-back Clement Poitreneau just ran into touch.

Somewhat against the run of play, Ulster made it back on terms in the 18th minute with scrum-half Brad Free darting through a static Toulouse defence to level the match at 5-5.

Jonathan Bell
Jonathan Bell scored Ulster's penultimate try

Toulouse regained the lead in the 26th minute with Christian Labit finishing off a set-piece move after the French has been awarded a penalty six metres from the Ulster line.

Marfaing converted to extend Toulouse's lead to 12-5.

Delightful dummy

Ulster needed to score next and that's what they did in the 31st minute with a delightful dummy from Jonathan Bell setting up Tyrone Howe for the Irish team's second try which was converted by Humphreys.

Toulouse squandered a glorious chance to reply immediately when centre Cedric Debrosse spilled the ball when he was already over the Ulster line.

James Topping put in a heavy hit on the Toulouse player but it was still a huge blunder by the French centre.

A minute before the interval, Humphreys was successful with a penalty which gave the away side an unlikely 15-12 lead.

Immediately replied

No doubt stung, Toulouse immediately replied with flanker Christian Labit charging downfield and setting up scrum-half Jerome Fillol for a converted try which put the French 19-15 ahead at half-time.

Toulouse's four point advantage was maintained in the third quarter with both goalkickers successful with two penalties.

James Topping
James Topping grabbed Ulster's final try

However, a 65th minute Marfaing penalty followed by Cedric Debrosse's 72nd minute try seemed to have given Toulouse a decisive advantage at 35-21.

Ulster, however, refused to give up.

Beautiful pass

In the first minute of injury-time with Toulouse players looking at the referee to blow the final whistle, Humphreys produced a beautiful pass to a charging Bell which allowed the centre to score under the posts.

Humphreys dropped kicked the conversion immediately to put only a converted try between the sides although it seemed too little, too late for Ulster.

However amazingly, there was still time for replacement centre Shane Stewart to break deep into Toulouse territory and while he was stopped five yards from the line, he was able to slip possession to Topping who crossed for a try.

The conversion chance wasn't the most difficult but Humphreys held his nerve admirably to earn Ulster the most unlikely of draws.

Toulouse: Poitreneau, Ougier, Debrosse, Delaigue, Marfaing, Penaud, Fillol, Califano, Bru, Tournaire, Miorin, Gerard, Lacroix, Labit, Pelous. Replacements: Soulhette for Pelous 45, Pelous for Califano 53, Boudouy for Poitreneau 57, Calazbou for Fillol 71; Sinbinned Tournaire and Miorin.

Ulster: Henderson, J Topping, Bell, Constable, Howe, Humphreys, Free, Fitzpatrick, Weir, Best, Longwell, Blair, Nelson, McWhirter, Ward. Replacements: Stewart for Constable half-time, Boyd for Best half-time, Shields for Weir 72.

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