Mark Anscombe targets home Pro 12 semi-final for Ulster

Province aims to bounce back from Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens

Ulster’s handsome bonus-point win at home to Connacht last Friday, coupled with Leinster and Munster losing to fellow play-off contenders the Ospreys and Glasgow, has bunched the top five together to such an extent it has heightened the chances of Mark Ascombe’s team earning a home semi-final, but also endangered their play-off aspirations.

Ulster have regained second place in the table and sit just four points behind leaders Leinster, whom they host in their penultimate game next Friday fortnight, but either side of that face Glasgow Warriors, five points behind them in fourth, next Friday and finish off away to Munster, currently two points behind them in third.

Top-place hopes
Anscombe is targeting a home semi-final, with an outside chance of first place.

“You sort of watch these games and you wonder who do you want to win. Am I happy that Ospreys beat Leinster? I don’t know. It allows us to catch Leinster but it keeps Ospreys in the picture.

“But at the end of the day, we’d be lying if we didn’t say it, we’d like a home semi-final. So to do that, we’d at least have to win two of our last three and if we beat Leinster we could go first. It is achievable and that’s what we’ve got to do.”


“A lot of people said ‘what’s to go for now?’” said Anscombe in reference to the fall-out from the Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Saracens.

“Well, the season started in September and this was our goal, to be successful in this competition, because that’s what started the year off.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves. Disappointed? Yes. Hurt? Yes.

"But we've got to get back on it and think as a group we're not going to be together again in four or five weeks' time. So we believe we're good enough, let's show we are."

Tighthead prop Ricky Lutton and fullback Ricky Andrew have signed two-year and one-year full-time professional contracts with Ulster.

A three-time Oxford Blue, Lutton’s has been a particularly circuitous route.

On the winning side in the 2008 Varsity match, he had spells in Australia and New Zealand, before returning to play for Belfast Harlequins in 2011.

His club form saw him capped for the Ravens, before he signed a development contract at the start of the 2012/13 season.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times