Ulster know tougher tests lie ahead starting tomorrow night
The Pro12 leaders will be hoping to secure a victory against Connacht in Galway
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images Ulster coach Mark Anscombe. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Ulster doused the Newport Gwent Dragons’ fire with a minimum of discomfort last weekend in a facile victory but know they can expect more hardnosed and motivated opponents when they travel to the Sportsground to take on Connacht tomorrow night.
Momentum plays a huge role in sport and Ulster will want to build that again on the pitch after a dreadfully disappointing exit from the Heineken Cup.
Losing jars but the manner of the defeat to Saracens really grated. Coach Mark Anscombe has exhorted his charges to look forward rather than dwell on the past.
“There’s nothing we can do about that now. It’s done, so we move on. Now we’ve got to show a little bit of steely determination about the way we want to play for the rest of the season.”
He gave his players a couple of days off: “We thought that was important. We decided on that collectively just to let them rest and then hopefully come back refreshed for what lies ahead.
“It isn’t rocket science working out what we need: win our remaining games and we have a home semi-final. That’s what we want, a home semi-final.”
The Dragons victory was a starting point. “That was really important, one to get confidence, two to get back on a winning way and give something back to the people who have supported us.”
Andrew Trimble, John Afoa and Paddy Jackson are included in an extended squad.
If the Ulster backs put away the Dragons it was the pack that laid the foundations, according to flanker Robbie Diack.
“I thought our set-piece was good – Tom (Court), Rory (Best) and Ricky (Lutton) did well in the frontrow; our scrum was steady. I thought Dan (Tuohy) handled the lineout brilliantly. He controlled our ball and their ball by competing and that makes it a lot easier for the rest of us to do our roles, so credit to those guys.”
Diack knows they will face a far tougher examination tomorrow night in Galway. “It’s different playing them at home and playing them away; it’s physically tough and it was last year. We know how important it is at this stage of the season, we have the lead now and want to keep it.”
“Going to Connacht is never easy. In all the interprovincial games there is (extra) emotion. There are a few ex-Ulster players there as well and I'm sure they will want to prove a point.
“We have two massive games and even though they are not tight in the table they are going to try and take us down, Connacht and Cardiff will both be tough and we’ll have to be at our best.”