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Nick Timoney’s ‘extra level’ as Ulster star steals back row limelight in win over Clermont

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Alan O’Connor. Credit: David Rogers/Getty Images

Alan O’Connor. Credit: David Rogers/Getty Images

Getty Images

Alan O’Connor. Credit: David Rogers/Getty Images

On a night when all eyes were understandably on new signing Duane Vermeulen, it was the side’s emerging star in the back-row who ultimately stole the headlines.

Coming to the end of a year when he established himself firmly in the Ulster side and won his first two Irish caps, it was Nick Timoney whose try ultimately secured the northern province's 29-23 win over Clermont in the Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday.

With John Cooney having kicked a penalty before there were even two minutes on the clock, the visitors led for over an hour with the fantastic Damian Penaud all that was keeping the Top 14 side in the contest. But when JJ Hanrahan, the former Munster ten who gave a good showing against Irish opposition, nudged his side into an advantage in the final quarter, momentum seemed to have swung decidedly in their favour.

It was Timoney, though, with 12 minutes to go who crossed the whitewash in somewhat controversial circumstances – Wayne Barnes appeared to blow the play dead as the Ulsterman went for the line – but he was rewarded for his heads-up play when the crucial score was awarded by the TMO.

Three weeks after a desperate dash to the Aviva Stadium saw him turning out for Ireland against Argentina and staking a claim for further involvement in Andy Farrell’s panel, Alan O’Connor believes his provincial team-mate has found an “extra-level” in recent months.

"Nick has been awesome,” said his skipper. “I thought he was class.

“Him getting called up for the Argentina game and filling in was brilliant for him. He's getting the rewards for his consistency for Ulster.

“He's really stepping up. He has been for a few years but this season there's an extra level and as a team we're reaping the rewards of that and he's a great man to have.”

And while it was Timoney who was the match-winner, O’Connor still heaped praise on Vermeulen, the World Cup winning Springbok who went 50 minutes on debut having first trained with his new team-mates only in the middle of the week.

"He's an awesome player,” he added. "It was class to have him on board and I thought he was great. He didn't have a lot of training time to come in but he gelled really well.

"He's a calming influence on the pitch and I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets on moving forward and I'm looking forward to working with him.”

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