Munster and Leinster set for showdown as both still playing catch-up with game to go
Despite that, Rob Penney sought to remain positive afterwards. “It was always going to be a tough ask just to get the win. You’ve got to remember this time last year Edinburgh were flying high in this competition and doing a great job. They are a quality side and they’ve got a lot of pride.
“It was just a wee bit disappointing we weren’t able to capitalise on some opportunities which we created and then the guys that gave it all and emptied the tank ran out of fuel with 10 minutes to go. We got a bit sloppy with a few things. All in all a pretty positive view of the whole situation. Given we had to come here and play at 12.30, it was always going to be a bit of a challenge.”
Penney suspects that, come kick-off next Sunday, they may well need a bonus point win. “I think any team coming to Thomond is going to be in for a good challenging battle and I don’t think it’ll be any different next week. In fact, it should be a really exciting Sunday afternoon there with so much at stake on that one fixture.”
The permutations turned further against the Irish sides on Saturday with Saracens’ 37-28 win over Racing in Nantes, which meant Munster were highly unlikely to top their pool, given Saracens host Edinburgh next Sunday.
Mindful of Saracens hosting Edinburgh the next day, Ulster may well have to win in Castres with a bonus point to ensure a home quarter-final, and may have to do so without Nick Williams whose knee injury will be assessed by medical staff today. Craig Gilroy (concussion) and Paddy Jackson (swollen ankle) should be available.
“If you said Ulster would have achieved these things without Stephen Ferris, Johann Muller and Tommy Bowe, I don’t think a lot of people would have thought that was possible,” said Mark Anscombe. Muller will be back in a fortnight, and Dan Tuohy remains a serious doubt for the Castres game, while Ferris and Bowe are targeting March returns.
“It is not any secret in what we have to do if we are to be successful against Castres. Like many French teams they have a home team and an away team,” added Anscombe, citing just one defeat at Stade Pierre Antoine this season.
“I can promise you that we’ll be going there with one thing in mind, and that’s to get the result next week at Castres. We have ticked the box and qualified top of our pool, but we want a home quarter-final, simple as that.”