Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Ulster v Connacht & Treviso

A double-bill of reviews from our intrepid Ulster correspondent Kristian Ross…

Kristian Ross avatar

Ulster Rugby completed a successful Round 3 and 4 and finally got their RaboPRO12 season off the mark with wins over Connacht and Benetton Treviso.

Ulster who went into the Connacht game having lost both their opening fixtures, first after a shoddy performance against the Dragons and second a bitter defeat to Glasgow Warriors in the final minutes knew they had to try and get the first W of the season in the opening InterPro derby of the campaign. It didn't start well either for the Ulstermen, Dan Parks capitalising on some sloppy Ulster defence to Connacht ahead with the opening try of the match, but after some good flowing rugby from the Belfast side, Ulster were able to touch down through Michael Allen in the corner, before a cagey twenty minutes followed, with both sides missing kicks via Parks and Paddy Jackson. Ulster were once again losing ground through silly mistakes and as the half time whistle blew, Connacht fans knew that if Ulster failed to kill off the game like they did against Glasgow, they could produce a scalp.

But as the second half started Ulster started to produce some classy rugby, Craig Gilroy entered the fray on his return from injury, and some good Ulster pressure saw the Connacht back line struggle to cope, as last years PRO12 finalists when ahead through Paddy Jackson’s penalty. And it was Jackson who had came under so much criticism in the first two games steer Ulster in to a commanding position, scoring a wonderful try and the adding a great conversion to give Ulster a 15-7 lead. Another Jackson penalty made sure that an eleven point advantage would be too much for Connacht to deal with, and despite some late pressure, Ulster held on for what was a decent victory and more or less a vital one.

The following week saw Ulster take on Bennetton Treviso, essentially a bogey team and a team who would possibly pose a huge challenge for nine county province. Treviso who had managed to scrape a draw last season following Ulster butchering what was certain victory were going into the game having already toppled Munster. With the mistakes having been clearly visible over the first three games, Mark Anscombe’s team knew the must try and finally get back to the ways of old and it started very well and they had returning British and Irish Lions in Tommy Bowe and Rory Best to do so.

Luke Marshall opened the try scoring account following Michael Allen’s earlier disallowed try via the TMO after Paddy Jackson and Mat Berquist had exchanged penalties, and Michael Allen did his try eventually as Ulster took the game by the scruff of the neck going into half time. The change from the side was quite remarkable, as the Ulstermen finally all looked like they were on the same wavelength. Treviso showed fantastic fighting spirit, some great pressure only rewarded with a penalty, and despite the fact that Ulster had been penned back, they made it three tries after Paddy Jackson’s cross field kick caught Treviso’s Ludovic Nitolglia napping, and Tommy Bowe scored on his return to send Ravenhill wild. Ulster then again started to knock at the door, and fantastic work from Luke Marshall saw the other returnee complete a dream start back as Rory Best made sure of the bonus point.

Treviso still weren't finished and when Lewis Stevenson was binned Robert Barbieri went over to cut the gap, but even after pressure in the last ten minutes from the Italians, Michael Allen continued his superb start to the season with a fifth try in the corner capping off an incredible night in Belfast as Ulster had merely sweeped Treviso aside by a comprehensive margin of thirty two points to thirteen.

Finally after the opening two weeks of the season Mark Anscombe has something to smile about after a half decent performance against Connacht and a very well oiled game against Treviso. Clearly this was evident in his post match interviews with tv coverage, and maybe some relief as well after what had clearly been a tough week, not just for the head coach and players but for the fans as well.

It’s a good platform as well for Ulster to build on, they are certainly going to need confidence, the next three fixtures being incredible tough, a trip to the Liberty Stadium to play Ospreys, before this year’s Heineken Cup campaign starts (hopefully not the last) with a tie against old foes and current English champions Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill and then a away tie against Montpellier at the Stade Yves Manoir in France on the 19th October.

At last it seems that Ulster may have found that winning formula and that as the season now starts to gain pace, the next few weeks will certainly give Ulster the challenge and give them the opportunity to show that they are able to take on the big boys and win and therefore prove a point to Europe’s heavyweights. But for now it’s time to just sit back, relax and watch Ulster climb the PRO12 table, our season has finally started... let the SUFTUMING in Europe begin.

I'm Kristian. 19. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

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