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ERCC: Exeter v Ulster Preview
Our rugby scribe takes a look at Sunday's European Champions Cup fixture between Exeter and Ulster.
An intriguing clash awaits us at Sandy Park this Sunday, as the struggling Exeter Chiefs do battle with a determined Ulster in a Pool 5 European Rugby Champions Cup clash.
Exeter Chiefs v Ulster Rugby | Sunday 15 January | Sandy Park | 19:30
To Win (80 mins)
Exeter Chiefs 9/20 | Draw 18/1 | Ulster 7/4
It has been a disappointing season for Exeter, as they have battled to replicate their domestic form onto the European stage. Despite sitting at third on the Aviva Premiership log, last season's English finalists find themselves rock bottom of Pool 5, eleven points off of the first-placed Clermont, and with just one win to their name.
A frustrating 13-all draw against a fourteen-man Saracens outfit in an Aviva Premiership fixture ended the Chiefs' run of three consecutive wins, which may further depress this Exeter side before the weekend's game. They face a mountainous challenge to qualify from here on out, and despite a 20-12 away victory over Bordeaux-Begles in their most recent European encounter in December, nothing suggests that the tide will turn.
Ulster, on the other hand, haven't been too flash this season, either domestically or on the continent. The current squad lack the quality of the Ulster side that made it to the Heineken Cup final five years ago, and their season has been rather stop-start up until now.
Coming off of the back of two-match losing streak, director of rugby Les Kiss should pull out all the stops here to ensure his side takes away maximum points - no matter how ugly the game gets. With experienced campaigners such as Ruan Pienaar, Rory Best and Andrew Trimble at his disposal, Kiss will be confident his men can steal a win when it matters most.
Verdict: Ulster 7/4
Having lost three of their last six games, and needing a win here to put pressure on the second-placed Bordeaux-Begles, Ulster's desperation should see them over the line, albeit by between 3 and 7 points. The fact that they need this victory more than Exeter means that they will be dangerous come Sunday kick-off, and they will look to put this battling Exeter side to bed.