Ulster have creativity to secure bonus-point victory over Treviso
Dan Tuohy makes his 100th appearance for province and John Afoa his 50th
Ulster’s Andrew Trimble scores against Treviso last weekend.
For the first time in his season and a half in charge of Ulster, Mark Anscombe has named an unchanged 23 for two consecutive matches, and he will be hoping for more of the ruthlessness his team showed in their seven-try rout of the Italians at Ravenhill last week.
Their bonus-point try was achieved while down to 14 men, which underlined their dominance, and emanated from a superb steal by Tom Court.
Their other departing prop, John Afoa, had given note of his undiminished intent with a barnstorming try of his own but given even David Humphreys might have difficulty in finding a similar replacement for their world-class tighthead, and the possibility of Johann Muller retiring at the end of the season, Ulster really have to maximise their resources at their disposal this season.
Securing a home quarter-final at their impressively re-built Ravenhill has to be to the target and this entails learning from the mistakes of last season, notably a hint of over-confidence on this corresponding weekend when losing at home a week after the bonus-point away win against Northampton.
It would help no end if Treviso had the same half-hearted approach as last week, but this is less likely at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo particularly as this will be Franco Smith’s final game in charge. Brendan Williams also makes his 50th Heineken Cup appearance at fullback for Treviso.
To that end, another bonus-point win would be helpful, although that was something which Montpellier could not achieve on the opening weekend and even Leicester only achieved the feat at home in the last play of the game.
Decisive pool finale
Montpellier’s apparently dilettante attitude to tomorrow’s home game with Leicester mightn’t do Ulster any favours either, with everything pointing to a decisive pool finale at Welford Road.
“It has been a privilege to work at the club and I want to thank everyone involved, the fans and the players who have worked with me and believed in me,” Smith told the ERC website. “I tried to change the way we play and we have gone through blood, sweat and tears but it has been a dream come true.”
The game is also notable for a few Ulster landmarks. Dan Tuohy makes his 100th appearance for the province and Afoa his 50th, while Andrew Trimble will equal Humphreys’ Ulster appearance record in this competition of 57, and still only 29, he will also seek to add to his 22nd try in the Cup (by some distance an Ulster record) last week.
On reaching his century, Tuohy said: “I was aware at the end of last season that I was sitting in the high 80s so I knew I was going to hit it at some point this year. It’s nice and it’s something that I will look back on at the end of my career and be proud of. Having reached 100 appearances for Ulster is definitely special.”
Heel of the hunt
In the heel of the hunt, Rob Herring, Stuart Wilson and Trimble, in tandem with Craig Gilroy, underlined Ulster’s strength in depth by making light of the absence of Rory best, Nick Williams and Tommy Bowe last week.
Ulster are the competition’s leading points scorers after three rounds and encouragingly the local forecast today is very good.
With Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson pulling the strings, Luke Marshall and Darren Cave (four try-scoring assists so far) in a rich vein of form, Jarred Payne hitting the line to telling effect and if they achieve any kind of daylight on the scoreboard they have the creativity and finishing skills in a potent backline to then pull away in a manner Montpellier were unable to achieve at this ground.
BENETTON TREVISO: B Williams; L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, L McLean; A Di Bernardo, E Gori; M Rizzo, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (capt), C van Zyl, A Zanni, M Vosawai, R Barbieri. Replacements: Gi Maistri, A de Marchi, I Fernandez Rouyet, V Bernabo, D Budd, P Derbyshire, T Botes, J Ambrosini.
ULSTER: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Herring, JAfoa, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, R Diack, S Doyle, R Wilson. Replacements: N Annett, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, N McComb, M McComish, P Marshall, M Allen, D McIlwaine.
Referee: Greg Garner (England).
Previous meetings: (2001-02) Treviso 28 Ulster 33; Ulster 59 Treviso 3; Ulster 27 Treviso 0; Treviso 26 Ulster 43; Ulster 48 Treviso 0.
Betting (Paddy Power): 9/2 Treviso, 25/1 Draw, 1/8 Ulster. Handicap odds (Treviso +11pts) 10/11 Treviso, 20/1 Draw, 10/11 Ulster.
Forecast: Ulster to win.