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Awesome Ulster stun Oyannax with stunning fightback


Ulster’s Franco van der Merwe (left) and Nick Williams celebrate

Ulster’s Franco van der Merwe (left) and Nick Williams celebrate

Ulster’s Franco van der Merwe (left) and Nick Williams celebrate

Stunned Ulster rugby fans danced a jig of delight and proudly waved their flags in the stands of a French rugby stadium as they watched their heroes perform one of the greatest comebacks the sport has seen.

This was the ultimate game of two halves. On the floor at half-time, 23-0 down away to Oyannax, Ulster staged an astonishing turnaround in the second half and dramatically came away with a 24-23 win.

A Paddy Jackson kick swung it in the end for Ulster as fingernails were well and truly bitten to the bone.

Fans sing about standing up for the Ulstermen - and this was one match which certainly had them on their feet.

One fan who was in the stadium, Rosa Matthews, told the Belfast Telegraph that the atmosphere was tense beyond belief.

"A very exciting game, nail-biting second half, great welcome from Oyannax supporters," she said.

"What a game, what a result.

"If I didn't drink already I would have had to start."

Ulster Rugby hailed it as an "unbelievable fight from Ulster in the second half" as tries from Rory Scholes, Craig Gilroy, Kyle McCall and a long range Paddy Jackson penalty in the last few minutes "sealed the deal".

"A hearty performance from our boys!" they added.

Already being hailed as one of the all-time great European rugby comebacks, the victory in the Champions Cup keeps Ulster's quarter-final dreams alive.

It was a second successive victory on French soil for Rory Best's men following on from their 25-23 win in Toulouse in round four and meant they closed the gap at the top of Pool One to six points with two games left to play.

Director of rugby Les Kiss responded to the desperate situation by introducing the experience of Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson at the break.

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It led to a completely transformed Ulster side and performance in the second half.

Jackson stepped up to aim for the posts and his kick sailed over to give the Ulstermen the lead with three minutes left on the clock.

Back at home, fans watching the game on TV were on the edge of their seats. Many were quick to take to the Ulster Rugby Facebook page to express their emotions.

Geraldine Lutton said: "Lost my voice now from shouting at the TV... well done, guys"

Christopher McDonald said: "I'm still physically shaking, a complete nervous wreck. Just goes to show what Paddy and Ruan contribute to Ulster.

"Fantastic game from both and Paddy is absolutely putting his hand up for that Ireland 10 shirt. Well done boys!"

Stephen Carr said: "Don't understand how it is possible from losing 23-0 to winning 24-23!

"One of my good friends said game over. I told him no, not over yet till the fat lady sings.

"Brilliant Ulster lads keep it up next match Saracens tough away game coming up please keep strong 15 not like today no more ever again".

Ady Knox said: "I live in France and nobody expected Oyonnax to play like that.

"Good for them and good for the game and good for us. We have a mountain to climb in the next game, so a good test today. Even if we didn't stuff 'em."

Other fans hailed Paddy Jackson's coolness under pressure when it mattered.

Julian Jordan said Jackson's touch line conversion and penalty were "awesome".

But some fans questioned the line-up, saying big name stars should have been on from the start.

Alan Ferguson said: "Worst half I have seen Ulster play in years, but fair play for coming back and winning."

Relief and amazement were the order of the day.

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