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 Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 15:47 GMT
Biarritz edge out Ulster
Bryn Cunningham appears to have tackled Cassin into touch for Biarritz's controversial third try
Cunningham appears to push Cassin into touch
Biarritz 25-20 Ulster

Biarritz gained revenge over Ulster to top Heineken Cup Pool Six following a nervous victory at the Parc des Sports Aguilera on Saturday.

But it took two dubious tries, the second particularly controversial, to allow Biarritz to pip a spirited and weakened Ulster side that refused to lie down.

Following a shock 13-9 defeat at Ravenhill last week, the French champions were eager to stop the 1999 European Cup champions.

Ulster, already devastated with the late withdrawal of David Humphreys, had to further rearrange their backline when centre Jonny Bell went off after only six minutes.

Their third score definitely wasn't a try

Ulster assistant coach
Mark McCall

But Ulster assistant coach Mark McCall admitted his side blew their chance for a first-ever victory on French soil.

"We should have won the game in the final 10 minutes," said McCall.

"But it was still a magnificent performance given that we went into the game without David Humphreys, Shane Stewart, Tyrone Howe and Ryan Constable.

"Biarritz have not lost at home this season and we gave them a big scare," said McCall also claimed Biarritz's third try should not have been awarded.

"It definitely wasn't a try," said McCall. "It happened in front of me and we have seen the television replays. But what can you do?"

Ulster, though, gave as good as they got in the first period, although they were under the cosh at times from the big Biarritz pack.

Ulster's Bryn Cunningham goes up for a high ball with Guillaumo Bousses
Cunningham and Bousses go for a high ball

Neil Doak and Dimitri Yachvili both missed chances before they traded penalties in the opening quarter.

Ulster nearly caught the reigning French champions when stand-in fly-half Adam Larkin took a quick penalty deep inside his own half.

However, after a thrilling run, the move broke down when prop Justin Fitzpatrick knocked on.

But it was Biarritz who grabbed the two tries that mattered in the opening half.

First, in the 26th minute, Australian-born centre John Isaacs cut inside from a three-quarter line move to trot over, with Yachvili converting.

Then, two minutes from the break with Ulster skipper Andy Ward in the sin-bin, the giant David Couzinet found space to crash over, the try being allowed despite the lock hitting the corner flag.

Match details:
Biarritz (15)
Tries: Isaac, Couzinet, Cassin
Pens: Yachvili 2
Cons: Yachvili 2

Ulster (3)
Tries: Cunningham, Ward
Pens: Doak 2
Cons: Doak 2

Undaunted, Doak pulled a penalty back on the restart. However, Biarritz scored another dubious try in the 55th minute.

Replacement Jean-Emmanuel Cassin showed great pace from 30 metres out, but he looked to have been forced into touch at the corner by the covering Bryn Cunningham.

Once again without a video referee, the try stood Yachvili added insult to injury with the touchline conversion.

At 22-6 down Ulster looked out of it, but they stormed back with an excellently-worked try by Jan Cunningham on the hour.

Although Yachvili landed his second penalty, Ulster were further back into contention with a well-worked try from skipper Andy Ward in the 73rd minute.

But it was just too much to claw back for the Ulster who showed great character in defeat.

Biarritz: N Brusque; M Stcherbina; J Issac, M Bousses, P Bidabe; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; E Menieu, J-M Gonzales, capt, D Avril, L Lorimet, O Roumat, F Soucaze, J-P Versailles, C Milheres.
Replacements: J Campo, M Fitzgerald, D Minassian, P Puleoto, L Mazas, J-M Cassin, P Etcheverria.

Ulster: B Cunningham; J Topping; J Cunningham, J Bell, S Young; A Larkin, N Doak; J Fitzpatrick, M Sexton, R Kempson, G Longwell, J Davidson, W Brosnihan, N McMillan, A Ward, capt.
Replacements: S Best, P Shields, M Blair, T McWhirter, K Campbell, R Nelson, S Coulter.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England).

 Ulster full-back Bryn Cunningham
''It was a very physical and bruising contest''
 BBC's Jim Neilly
"A terrific effort by Ulster"

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