Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tough times ahead for Neil Doak

Much more uncertainty ahead for Ulster, says Kristian Ross...


So after all that build up, the tweets, the newspaper stories, the sheer hope and expectation, it has crashing down for Ulster Rugby, well, in Europe at least. 

As the international break gives us time to reflect on the last few weeks, it makes you wonder about how the provinces transitional season will fair. Outclassed by Toulon at Ravenhill, many fans including myself knew that we had been taken apart by a world class opponent, a team that was clinical in every sense of the word, from Leigh Halfpenny’s kicking to the enormity of the forwards that were devastating in the scrum. 

In short, Ulster could take defeat from Toulon with no real pride hurt, but it was the previous week against Leicester Tigers that did the damage, a tactical nightmare and despite a superb second half fight back, the European Champions Cup campaign looks over before it has even started. 

The PRO12 provided brief respite following a dismal start to the European campaign as the Newport Gwent Dragons came to town, Ulster got the win, but there were signs that a bonus point was there for the taking. 

With an invigorated Ireland side vanquishing South Africa at the weekend in style, it’s hard to believe that all that fuss about Jared Payne at thirteen was ever in doubt? Perhaps not. A full back first and foremost for me, but having spoken to a NZ Herald reporter last week (excuse my shameless name drop), who said that he was impressed when Payne was at centre back in the homeland, it does perhaps now make sense that the man who is known as @thepain15 on Twitter may have to change his handle. 

Odd perhaps, that after a summer in which players leave, retire, or just simply move onto new challenges that you sit and wonder about what could have been had they still been plying their trade in Belfast. In my opinion, we certainly miss a few, although the acquisition of Ludik does look like one that may pay dividends in the future. 

So… where do we go from here. How far are we from success? Will we see Neil Doak build a strong Ulster side in preparation for Les Kiss’s arrival in 2015? The answers? Who knows. 

It’s an old cliché that “time will tell” but in Ulster’s case, it could well be a very apt one…

Kristian. 20. Geordie. Fond of Wasps, Falcons and Ulster. @Kristian7Ross

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