Sunday 19 November 2017

Cunningham left stunned by "atrocious" performance as Ulster crash to defeat

Les Kiss' Ulster slumped to defeat in Bordeaux after conceding three late tries
Les Kiss' Ulster slumped to defeat in Bordeaux after conceding three late tries

Ulster performance director Bryn Cunningham described his side's second-half performance against Bordeaux-Begles as "nothing short of atrocious" after seeing victory dramatically snatched from their grasp.

The Irish province looked on course to claim a famous win in their Champions Cup Pool 5 opener after establishing a 13-9 lead heading into the final seven minutes at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

However, the match was turned on its head as Bordeaux scored three tries in the closing stages to record a 28-13 triumph.

A shellshocked Cunningham, who helped Ulster win the European Cup in 1999, told BBC Northern Ireland that the loss of a 10-3 interval lead was compounded by throwing away the opportunity of at least taking a losing bonus point home with them to Belfast.

The last Bordeaux score was a near length of the field effort after Ulster had lost the ball having given up on the chance of kicking a penalty and gone for the try.

"I'm stunned. I thought at half-time we looked to be in the driving seat. The opening 10 minutes we weathered the storm pretty well and started taking control of the game," said Cunningham, whose side went ahead through Andrew Trimble's 20th-minute try - his 25th in the competition.

"We played a lot of territory, went through the phases and we were good for our half-time lead. We should have been more out of sight but didn't take some chances, but at least we were looking positive and had stamped our authority on the game.

"The second half was nothing short of atrocious. I am absolutely gobsmacked at how we played - our defence on our own line was outstanding at times, and we showed a lot of heart there, but we stayed camped there.

"We only spent a minute in the opposition half in the second half - it was incredibly disappointing. And then to throw away the chance of a losing bonus point in the end when we fumbled the ball and they ran the length of the pitch, just rubbed a bit of salt in the wounds.

"All in all it was massively disappointing. We knew we needed to get something out of this game given the tight nature of the pool."

The result leaves Ulster bottom of a pool that also includes 2013 and 2015 runners-up Clermont Auvergne and Exeter.

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