Battle-weary Ulster are glad of upcoming break
According to Ulster coach Mark Anscombe number eight Nick Williams looked short of a game against the Scarlets in their Rabo Direct Pro 12 game in west Wales. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye
Mark Anscombe admitted the forthcoming two-week break could not have come quick enough for his battle-weary Ulster team after running out of steam in wind-swept west Wales.
After 11 changes to the team due to international call ups and injuries, Ulster could not pull out of the bag another victory against the odds.
Defensively Ulster could not be faulted, particularly during a sustained four-minute spell during the first half when they repelled the majority of 34 successive phases on their try line.
However, they struggled to muster any pressure of their own and rarely looked like winning.
Couple of weeks off
Anscombe said: “We have a couple of weeks off now and I think that will be a good thing.
“We had a good win last week against the Blues but it wasn’t a great performance and we had a pretty average one out there again here.
“Hopefully a few days off for the boys will refresh their batteries.
“Players like Nick Williams looked short of a game out there, so we need to get them back into the fold.
“The first week a good few guys will have a week off and we will get them back Monday week and go about our work and get ready for Edinburgh.”
Ulster slip to fifth and though they lost ground on the leading pack, they remain only six points behind table-toppers Munster.
It was an uncharacteristic performance from the Ulstermen, not least for their indiscipline that saw Williams escape two exchanges with Alain Rolland before David McIlwaine and Roger Wilson were both binned in the second half.
McIlwaine was on the field for just four minutes before getting his marching orders yet thanks to some last ditch tackling, not least when Wilson denied Josh Turnbull, Ulster managed to stay in contention through the boot of Ruan Pienaar, only for the South African to horribly scuff a chance in front of the posts that would have cut the deficit to 14-12 eight minutes from time, and possibly make it anyone’s game.
But Wilson’s moment of madness in flicking out a boot at man of the match Sione Timani reduced Ulster to 14 men – again – and allowed Aled Thomas to kick Scarlets out of reach.
Anscombe said: “You will always bank on Ruan getting that penalty at the end and at 14-12 who knows what could happen then. But Scarlets took their chances and thoroughly deserved their win.”
SCARLETS: G Owen, N Reynolds, G Maule, A Warren, J Williams; S Shingler (A Thomas 37), G Davies; P John (capt), K Myhill, S Lee, J Ball, G Earle, A Shingler (J Barclay, 13), J Turnbull, S Timani
ULSTER: J Payne (capt), M Allen (D McIlwaine 61), D Cave, C Farrell, A Trimble; R Pienaar, P Marshall (J McKinney 56); C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb (M McComish 71), R Diack, R Wilson, N Williams
Referee: A Rolland (IRFU)