The match started with an early try for Bath, grounded by Matt Carraro in the right-hand corner after Ulster had failed to collect the kick-off correctly. Olly Barkley's conversion missed, but the home team were ahead with seconds on the clock at Bath 5 Ulster 0.
A charged-down Humphreys clearance on five minutes almost led to the concession of a second try, but for a knock-on by Carraro at the crucial moment. With Ulster still struggling to get out of the blocks, Andrew Trimble strayed offside and gave Barkley the chance to extend the lead with a penalty from the Ulster '22', which the veteran centre executed to perfection on nine minutes.
Then, a minute later, as if from nowhere, Robbie Diack fed Adam D'Arcy with a defence-splitting pass and the full-back showed pace and guile to ground the try. Humphreys converted with aplomb to redress the balance at Bath 8 Ulster 7.
A high tackle from Tom Court was penalised on 15 minutes and punished by the boot of Barkley, but Humphreys struck back two minutes later to keep the margin at a solitary point. The game continued along a somewhat scrappy path, with another penalty for Bath on 23 minutes dispatched by Barkley from just outside the Ulster 10-metre line to make the score Bath 14 Ulster 10.
The match progressed with several examples of poor tactical kicking from Ulster, which went unpunished as Bath failed to convert possession into points. Then, just after the half-hour mark, a strong burst from Simon Danielli promised much but delivered little, with play breaking down with an Ulster handling error once the Scottish winger had passed inside. A disjointed first half then came to a close with a good break led by Ruan Pienaar, which won another penalty after Bath had been penalised for not releasing in the tackle. Humphreys' kick was again spot-on to bring his side back within a point at the break.
Half-Time Score Bath 14 Ulster 13
Bath started the second period on the offensive again, and after some amateur pugilism involving himself and Dan Tuohy, Butch James was sent to the sinbin to give Ulster the upper hand numerically for 10 minutes. However, the visitors failed to capitalise at first, giving away two penalties in quick succession and allowing the Englishmen to stall for a good five minutes of the numerical imbalance.
A Bath infringement in the ruck allowed Pienaar to kick deep into Bath territory, and after several minutes of pressure and patient multiple phase play, Nevin Spence finally took advantage of Ulster's superiority to go down in the corner for his first-ever Heineken Cup try. Humphreys hit an extraordinary conversion right from the touchline to give his team a six point lead at Bath 14 Ulster 20.
Then, with Bath penalised straight from the restart for not releasing in the tackle, Humphreys showed great authority by signalling directly for the kick at goal, which he judged with expertise from just inside his own half to consolidate the lead. An off-target Barkley penalty on the hour mark added to Bath's woes, but the same player kicked for touch from a subsequent penalty five minutes later to put the home team in possession in the Ulster danger zone.
Mere metres from the line, Ulster infringed again and Spence was then the fall guy, sent to the bin for repeated foul play by his side. The Bath points then rained down thick and fast, with a Barkley penalty and an unconverted Matt Banahan try within two minutes bringing the score up to Bath 22 Ulster 23.
Ulster did exactly what was required from the restart, applying pressure within the Bath half and forcing another penalty, which the on-form Humphreys dispatched to leave Bath needing two penalties or a try to snatch victory. Then, a wonderful kick-and-chase from Pienaar got Ulster to within five metres from the try-line and, with the clock ticking on, the Ulster forwards retained possession and drove onwards for a good three minutes until replacement Paddy McAllister finally conceded a penalty to hand possession back to Bath.
However a forward pass from James broke down the Englishmen's final onslaught, and Ulster were able to see out the game from the resulting scrum to confirm their second four-point win over the West Country outfit in seven days, and set up the home January tie against Biarritz as a crunch first-versus-second encounter.
Full-Time Score Bath 22 Ulster 26
(15 - 9) J Cuthbert; M Carraro, O Barkley, S Hape, M Banahan; B James, M Claasens (c)
(1 - 8) D Flatman, L Mears, D Wilson, S Hooper, D Grewcock, A Beattie, L Moody, S Taylor
Replacements (16 - 23) P Dixon, D Barnes, D Bell, I Lobbe, B Skirving, M McMillan, S Vesty, N Abendanon
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, N Brady, BJ Botha, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, R Diack
Replacements (16 - 23) A Kyriacou, P McAllister, B Young, T Barker, C Henry, P Marshall, I Whitten, J Smith
|Bath Rugby Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|