Iain Henderson says Ulster will review their scrum after unravelling against Bath

Discipline and a litany of errors contributed to such a decidedly one-sided second half in Champions Cup

After a miserable start to their Champions Cup campaign, Ulster skipper Iain Henderson was left to ponder how the 37-14 loss in Bath had unravelled “so fast and so far.”

The northern province, who have now lost three games in a row in all competitions, had led 14-8 at half-time of their trip to the Rec but shipped 29 points without reply after the turn.

The scrum, their discipline and a litany of errors all contributed to such a decidedly one-sided second 40 of the game with the set-piece a huge concern given Ulster’s big off-season signing, Springbok Steven Kitshoff, was supposed to weaponise that particular area of the game.

“We asked ourselves to come out and make an impact in the first-half and I felt we did that,” said Henderson of the interval lead produced by converted scores from Billy Burns and Nathan Doak.


“I thought we got right a lot of the stuff that we wanted to get right.

“We got ourselves into the game the way we wanted to, I felt like our set-piece in the first-half was going quite well.

“We spoke at half-time and said keep doing what we are doing, [how] that sort of foot on the throat mentality will drive that home.

“I think probably our discipline, turnover-rate and our set-piece in the second-half let us down and that is probably how the game got away from us so fast and so far.”

It is not the first time this season that Ulster’s scrum has struggled, with Henderson admitting the front-row were hurting after coming out so decisively second best.

With Racing 92 coming to Belfast this weekend, things will get no easier either.

“We’ll have to sit down and have a good review,” Henderson acknowledged. “Next week we have a big scrum coming at us and that is going to be massive, a huge point in the game.

“Any team that wants to do something positive in rugby, you need to have a good scrum.

“We have a couple of guys in there that are hurting pretty hard and have taken that beating on the chin. They are going to have to bounce back next week and I have no doubt that they will.”

In contrast, of course, Bath’s head coach Johann van Graan was thrilled by his side’s set-piece dominance with the former Munster boss praising the work done to improve the surface at the Rec to allow for such a scrummaging display.

“Firstly, the changes we made to the pitch two weeks ago have done wonders, we stitched the pitch after the Leicester game,” said Van Graan.

“We knew we needed to change something. It’s a very firm pitch (now). We saw that in the Bristol game and the Exeter game.

“The pitch gave us a platform to scrum from. I thought that was excellent.

“When the score was 18-14, the easy thing would be to take three-points but we kept applying pressure, and applying pressure.

“The scrum isn’t a front-row thing, they’ve to make the hit first up, but it’s a whole eight thing.

“I thought every forward got stuck into the scrum.

“Ulster is a team I respect. I’ve coached against them loads of times. Kitsy (Kitshoff) obviously I know about.

“Ulster can scrum and for us to scrum like that, I’m really happy for the pack and for Stevie [Scott] and Blazey [Richard Blaze], the two forwards coaches.”

While the arrival of Marty Moore and Rob Herring from the bench steadied things for a time for the visitors, there was more trouble for Ulster when Bath went to their own front-row replacements with Springbok Thomas du Toit, also briefly of Munster, carrying on the good work of starting tighthead, England international Will Stuart.

“Will is getting better every weekend. It was personal for him as well,” added Van Graan of Stuart’s battle with Kitshoff.

“He’s come up against Kitsy a few times and I thought he played really well.

“Will has been very good the last few weeks and how brilliant is it to have two tightheads, Will and Thomas, both making a difference.

“I think from that perspective, our ‘impacts’ made a real difference.

“In fact I thought the intensity went up when our impacts came on.

“You’ll hear it from everybody, I trust the squad. We’ve made multiple changes across weeks, I might keep the same team for next week or I might make 15 changes.”

Ulster, meanwhile, are the ones looking more urgently in need of change.

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