'One defeat doesn't make us a bad team'
Reaction:One-point defeats invariably tantalise. Ulster captain Chris Henry’s cocktail of frustration and disappointment was understandable. It didn’t blind him to the shortcomings of the team’s performance on the night in losing 10-9 to the Northampton Saints but the province must now look forward rather than dwell on a first defeat in 14 matches this season.
Henry admitted: “We weren’t playing at our best at all, but we were still close, still in it and we had chances to win it. In other matches we have been able to finish those off, not playing well but getting a result. For us, we’ve had so many great European nights at Ravenhill and that is why the players are hurting. It wasn’t what we were expecting, it is not what we are used to and it is not what big European nights in Ravenhill are about.
“So, we will learn from it and use the hurt. But, without a doubt, one defeat doesn’t make us a bad team. We were never going to go through the season without losing a game; I think we were all realistic about that.
“But, I suppose, it is a shock to players. Massive credit goes to Northampton who I thought did well. They really came at us from the start and, while we knew they were going to, we didn’t match them. The ruck had a big say; they were very good at the breakdown. But we had 18 handling errors and when you lose the ball like that, you won’t win big games.”
His team-mate Andrew Trimble too looked forward, to the visit of Leinster next Friday night. “Last week we showed what we are capable of in terms of levels of intensity. We didn’t match it this week and we want to bounce back. You always want to beat Leinster; it is always going to be a massive game.
“Both teams will be reeling a little bit but it is a great chance to get our performance levels up to where we expect to be.”
Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder was understandably delighted with the reaction of his players after being roundly criticised for an insipid performance in the first match.
“You’d think the team would be up for a home game against Ulster last week. Clearly we weren’t. Tonight you saw what we can do and quite a few people have written the team off as not being the side we have been.
“I think . . . we proved that we can compete with the top teams in Europe. It makes it interesting now. Ulster still have to play Castres and that’s a difficult game for them. I think we can look forward to that. I think the two games have got something in it for us.”