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Ulster 39-32 Clermont Auvergne: Ulstermen victorious in European Champions Cup thriller

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Champions Cup season is very much alive after a five-try, five-point win over Clermont at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

A nine-try thriller, which the hosts shaded 39-32, came in a game that featured seven lead changes.

Les Kiss saw Luke Marshall score in each half, with Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson and Charles Piutau also crossing.

Clermont, however, came back strongly from a 39-18 deficit to force a nervy finish, and indeed took two points from the contest themselves.

Top spot in the group, though, will now be up for grabs next week in the rematch at the Stade Marcel Michelin, with Ulster now three points behind the French side in the standings at the half-way point.

Match preview

A fired-up Chris Henry believes the challenge of facing a side like Clermont in the Champions Cup is as big as it gets in an Ulster jersey.

Les Kiss's men welcome the Top 14 leaders to Kingspan Stadium this afternoon (1pm kick-off) in a game they must win if they are to have any realistic hope of getting out of their European pool.

"This is what playing for Ulster is all about," said the fit-again flanker.

"These European Cup games, no matter what, it's the closest thing to Test match rugby.

"A French team coming to town, the fans up for it, we get up for it too.

"It's hard to replicate that nervous energy that starts on a Monday morning when you come in and you know it's the European Cup this week, especially a French team filled with internationals and real stars.

"It just refocuses the mind."

Ulster have been able to welcome Irish internationals Rory Best and Paddy Jackson back into the fold for the first time in almost two months and Kiss thinks their return from Test duty couldn't be better timed for the province.

"The boys have done a great job in the November series for Ireland and they're super keen to get back and do a job for us this weekend," he said.

"They're in a great vein of form. They had a good November, especially Besty. It was an enormous campaign from him.

"He stood up big and tall and got some real reward

"It's really great to have them back."

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