Ulster claimed their second win in two European Cup outings this season with a gritty 19-8 win at Glasgow, while fellow former champions Northampton slumped to a 21-16 defeat at Castres.
Ulster, who had crushed Castres 41-17 in their opening Pool 4 match in Belfast last weekend, had led 6-3 at half-time thanks to two penalties from Paddy Jackson.
Back row forward Chris Henry extended their lead with their only try of the game after 68 minutes with Jackson adding the extras for 13-6.
Jackson added two more penalties to give 1999 champions Ulster a cushion which made Glasgow’s last minute try from Fijian replacement scrum-half Nikola Matawalu a mere consolation.
“It’s not easy to come here and get a victory as other teams I’m sure will find out,” Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe said. “We showed a lot of character, the boys battled their way through tough conditions against a very good team. You have got to be able to work through things because the game of rugby doesn’t always go the way you want it.”
Northampton, the 2000 champions, had clawed back a 15-point deficit to emerge 24-15 victors over Glasgow last week, but were outclassed by a Castres team eager to bounce back from their disastrous trip to Northern Ireland.
Castres took just six minutes to open their account when center Paul Bonnefond crossed and Romain Teulet added the conversion.
Seven minutes later, Northampton were penalized for offside and Teulet slotted over the penalty for a 10-0 lead.
Steve Myler was on target with two quick penalties as Saints cut the deficit to 10-6.
However, seven minutes from the break, lock Courtney Lawes was penalized for not rolling away and South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott made the Englishman pay with a penalty that gave Castres a 13-6 lead.
Five minutes after the interval, a scrum was reset five meters out from Northampton’s line. The ball came out to Antonie Claassen and the South African back-rower charged over for an 18-6 lead for the French side, although Kockott went wide with the conversion.
On the hour mark, Samoan center George Pisi, who was man of the match against Glasgow, brought Northampton back into the game.
He chased down a Ryan Lamb kick ahead, Kockott fumbled the ball which allowed Pisi to regather before scoring under the posts.
Myler converted for 18-13, before a cool-headed drop goal from Teulet settled Castres’ nerves at 21-13.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7