|Heineken Champions Cup Pool Three|
|Harlequins (3) 10|
|Try: Lewies Con: Lang Pen: Lang|
|Ulster (10) 34|
|Tries: Cooney 2, Marshall, Faddes, O’Toole Cons: Cooney 3 Pen: Cooney|
Ulster moved closer to the Champions Cup quarter-finals and extended their lead at the top of Pool Three with a dominant victory at Harlequins.
The Irish side led at the break thanks to a try, conversion and penalty from scrum-half John Cooney.
Ulster extended their lead through Luke Marshall after the break, before Cooney crossed again.
Stephan Lewies scored Quins’ only try, before Matt Faddes’ score earned Ulster a four-try bonus point.
Replacement forward Tom O’Toole also went over from short range as Ulster maintained their unbeaten record with few alarms.
Ulster have a six-point lead at the top of the pool, while Harlequins are third with five points and little hope of reaching the quarter-finals.
French side Clermont are second on 11 points and play fourth-placed Bath on Sunday.
Cooney shines as Ulster make it four from four
With just one win in the competition so far, the hosts needed victory at The Stoop to maintain any hope of reaching the knockout stages.
But Quins’ discipline let them down early on – they conceded four penalties in the first 12 minutes – meaning Ulster were the first team on the board after Cooney claimed his first three points.
Harlequins were dealt a further blow when fly-half Brett Herron and flanker Will Evans left the field after 20 minutes for head injury assessments from which they did not return.
Ulster then gave Quins centre James Lang the chance to equalise after Marcell Coetzee conceded a penalty in front of the posts.
And the game sprung to life just before half-time as fly-half Billy Burns kick-started an attack which saw Ulster cover the length of the pitch to score.
Burns saw a gap and sent a well-timed offload to Jacob Stockdale, who found Faddes before Cooney – the hero in last weekend’s late win against the same opponents – appeared on his shoulder to dot down.
Ulster added more pressure straight after the break when Stuart McCloskey chipped the ball through for Marshall to gather and score.
And more individual brilliance from Cooney saw him increase his points tally to 19 as the scrum-half gathered a loose ball and scored his second try before adding the extras.
Quins lock Lewies dived over from close range to reduce the deficit but Ulster soon made the most of an overthrown line-out and their counter-attack led to Faddes’ bonus-point score.
O’Toole added his name to the scoresheet on full-time, all but ending Harlequins’ Champions Cup quarter-final hopes.
Harlequins play Bath in the penultimate round of the pool stage on 10 January, while Ulster face Clermont on 11 January.
|Heineken Champions Cup Pool Three|
‘We’re taking opportunities’ – what they said
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: “There were bits and pieces that weren’t great but some of it was excellent. The try before half-time was a massive boost to us and would have sucked a bit of energy out of them.
“John Cooney is playing with confidence at the moment and any professional sportsperson will tell you that a bit of confidence will do you the world of good.”
Ulster man of the match John Cooney said: “I’m happy with the way it’s going at the moment. We showed a lot of desire.
“We’re taking those opportunities and it’s a reflection of the way we’re trying to play.”
Harlequins: R Chisholm; Goneva, Lang, Saili, Murley; Herron, Landajo; Garcia Botta, Elia, Sinckler, Lewies, Cavubati, Evans, Kunatani, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Musk, Auterac, Kerrod, Lamb, J Chisholm, Saunders, Lasike, Ismaiel.
Ulster: Stockdale; Faddes, Marshall, McCloskey, Ludik; Burns, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Herring, Moore, Treadwell, Henderson, Reidy, Murphy, Coetzee.
Replacements: McBurney, Warwick, O’Toole, O’Connor, Rea, Shanahan, Johnston, Gilroy.