Heineken Cup: Ulster beat Castres to boost home quarter-final hopes
Last Updated: 19/01/13 5:01pm
Ruan Pienaar: Kicked all three penalties for Ulster
Ulster boosted their chances of securing a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup after recording a 9-8 victory over Castres at Stade Pierre-Antoine.
Castres made a flying start and took the lead when Remi Lamerat crossed the try-line to finish off a flowing move on the right.
But last year's runners-up gradually wore their opponents down and three penalties from fly-half Ruan Pienaar helped them turn the tables and record their first ever win in France.
Pool 4 winners Ulster were not able to register the bonus-point success which would have guaranteed them a home tie in the last eight and they will have to wait on other results to discover whether they have done enough.
A quick start allowed the hosts to strike first as Lamerat cantered over in the ninth minute after a wonderful offload from Max Evans on the touchline opened up the Ulster defence.
Rory Kockott could not add the conversion and Ulster reduced the deficit with a Ruan Pienaar penalty, only for Kockott to increase the gap to five with his first and only successful kick of the contest.
Ulster then enjoyed an extended spell of pressure, eschewing kicks at goal to go for the try-line before relenting and letting Pienaar kick his second penalty to take them into half-time 8-6 behind.
Castres got back on the front foot at the start of the second half but could not put any more points on the board, with Kockott sending a booming penalty from well inside his own half wide of the posts.
After weathering the storm, Ulster edged into the lead for the first time as Pienaar slotted over a simple penalty when the home side were penalised for offside.
Despite the slim advantage Ulster remained relatively comfortable until the final whistle.
They came nearest to a try late on when Marc Andreu made a crucial interception after Paddy Jackson broke through the line and tried to play in Darren Cave.