Error-strewn Ulster end disappointing European campaign with Bordeaux defeat in Belfast
Ulster finished their disappointing European Champions Cup season in downbeat fashion as Bordeaux-Begles secured a hard-earned but deserved 26-22 victory at the Kingspan Stadium.
The defeat consigned Les Kiss's squad to bottom place in Pool Five while Bordeaux moved into second spot in what was a 'dead rubber' tie, with neither side able to progress to the quarter-finals.
Despite outscoring the French by three tries to two and securing a losing bonus point, Ulster's performance was full of errors.
First-half tries from Andrew Trimble and Franco van der Merwe were added to by Darren Cave in the second while Paddy Jackson kicked two conversions and a penalty.
Ian Madigan led the way for Bordeaux - who were 20-15 up at the break - by kicking two conversions and two penalties while replacement Simon Hickey closed the game out with two late penalties.
Yoan Lesgourgues and Marco Tauleigne scored Bordeaux's tries in the first half. The visitors opened with a Madigan penalty after just over a minute of play after Jackson failed to roll away from a tackle and after dominating the opening exchanges they had a try on 11 minutes when scrum-half Lesgourgues sacked Dave Shanahan at the back of a set-piece.
The Bordeaux number nine picked up the ball and then ran in from close range with Madigan converting. The home side then struck back and, after Jackson put a penalty in the corner, the out-half was on hand to supply Trimble with the scoring pass to dot down in the left corner.
The French responded by sending the ball up into Ulster territory and from a home side scrum, they shunted Ulster back over the line with number eight Tauleigne being awarded a 22nd minute try via the TMO. Madigan converted and Bordeaux led 17-5.
Again, Ulster responded and after Tom Palmer was penalised for a dangerous tackle, Jackson hit the corner and the home side's maul help create the momentum for Franco van der Merwe to smash over out on the left flank.
This time Jackson landed the conversion to close the French side's lead to 17-12 but Madigan struck shortly afterwards with a long range penalty.
The half ended with Jackson just held short but illegally by Geoffrey Cros who was yellow-carded and the Ulster out-half kicked the penalty to narrow Bordeaux's lead to 20-15
Ulster failed to score during Cros's binning and then, on 53 minutes, Jackson was wide with a straightforward looking penalty.
Just before the hour, Ulster finally took the lead when Cave grounded the ball against the foot of the post after some sustained pressure with Jackson's conversion edging the home side in front by 22-20.
Their lead lasted 13 minutes before a high tackle by Stuart McCloskey on Jean-Baptiste Dubie ended in a penalty which replacement Simon Hickey converted to put Bordeaux ahead by 23-22 and that became 26-22 on 73 minutes when Hickey struck again to seal the win.