Ulster Rugby survived a late comeback from ASM Clermont Auvergne, finishing 34-31 winners at Kingsholm Stadium on Saturday.
The hosts earned a second consecutive bonus point after scoring five tries, with hooker Rob Herring hitting the dot twice, as the Irish province finished the group stage with a 100% win record.
After trailing 34-12 in the second half, Clermont responded with three late attempts via Jacobus Van Tonder, Alivereti Raka and Judicael Cancoriet, with Ulster holding onto the win.
It was an unfortunate Ulster reunion for current Clermont director of rugby Jono Gibbes, who left the United Rugby Championship side in 2018 as his men failed to secure a place in the Round of 16 and now need help from need different results to qualify.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 22, 2022
Haring opened the score for the hosts in the eighth minute and came out of an Ulster maul to take his second Heineken Champions Cup try of the season.
Morgan Parra reacted quickly for the visitors with a penalty to get Clermont on the board.
The 33-year-old then put Gibbes’ side 6-5 ahead after winning a scrum penalty.
Mike Lowry put Ulster back in the lead as the fullback showed sheer explosiveness to burst through the Clermont defense – escaping a Parra tackle to cross into the corner.
Perra’s boot saw Clermont regain the advantage by taking two more penalties for a 12-10 lead.
However, a yellow card to Raka gave Ulster the man’s advantage as the Clermont winger was sent to the sin box.
Ulster hooker Herring then scored his second try just before half time and broke from another Ulster maul to go down, with Nathan Doak adding the extras to give the Irish province a 17-12 lead at halftime.
Making his second European start, Doak gave the hosts their first points after the break with a penalty before Duane Vermeulen used his strength to cross at close range and secure a bonus point for Ulster.
Robert Baloucoune then gave Ulster their fifth try of the evening after being let go by a long, floating pass from Billy Burns, who then added the extras for the Irish province for a 34-12 lead.
Clermont then answered with a fantastic try when substitute Damian Penaud, Cheikh Tiberghien and Lucas Dessaigne all teamed up to release Van Tonder for his first Heineken Champions Cup try of the season.
The gap was then closed to 10 points as Raka completed another fantastic team effort for Clermont, with substitute Camille Lopez converting.
Tension then rose even further among the Ulster fanbase at Kingsholm Stadium when Cancoriet came down after a Clermont maul, with another Lopez conversion turning it into a three-point match.