Paddy Jackson guided Ulster to a hard-fought victory over English giants Leicester in the opening round of the European Cup on Friday, but there was a fright for Saracens at the hands of Connacht.
Jackson scored five penalties and a conversion for a personal tally of 17 points as the Irish province clung on for a 22-16 victory, Leicester snatching a bonus point at the death.
“There was no panic at halftime even though we’d made a lot of errors,” Ulster flanker and man-of-the match Roger Wilson told Sky Sports. “And all credit to Leicester, they got their bonus point at the end.”
Leicester’s Logovi’i Mulipola was the recipient of a fantastic Daniel Bowden pass after an earlier Toby Flood break, and crashed over for the opening try after seven minutes at Ravenhill.
Ulster came firing back, Tommy Bowe outleaping Leicester’s Niall Morris to get on the end of a perfect Jackson cross-kick.
Flood banged over a 20th minute penalty to reinstall the visitors’ lead, only for Jackson to reply in kind 10 minutes later.
After a Tigers infringement following a sharp break by scrumhalf Paul Marshall, Jackson kicked a second penalty on the stroke of halftime.
Flood leveled the scored four minutes into the second period with his second penalty after Jackson strayed offside.
Jackson then missed a straightforward pot at goal, but calmed home nerves with one in the 59th minute to take Ulster out to 16-13.
Jackson added two more penalties as firstly an under-pressure Tigers pack missing yellow-carded Jordan Crane popped up and then prop Dan Coles was ruled offside with Ulster threatening.
Replacement Owen Williams missed a drop-goal, but nailed a penalty with three minutes remaining that gifted Leicester an invaluable bonus point in a pool that also includes in-form French club Montpellier and Italians Treviso.
One of the favorites to win this year’s tournament, Saracens, were given a scare at Connacht.
Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton scored an early brace for Saracens, both converted by Owen Farrell, who also booted a penalty.
However, Dan Parks kicked a penalty and then converted tries by Kieran Marmion and Danie Poolman to keep the poor cousins of Irish provincial rugby very much in the game.
Only two Farrell penalties in a tight second-half separated the teams, with Saracens next facing Toulouse, who mauled Italians Zebre 38-5.