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'It's a nice feeling to get that done in that fashion. I was bloody nervous before the game'

Les Kiss was pleased with his side’s performance tonight, but admits it was far from perfect.

Tommy Bowe celebrates his try at Ravenhill tonight.
Tommy Bowe celebrates his try at Ravenhill tonight.
Image: Darren Kidd/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Kingspan Stadium

START AS YOU mean to go on was the message in the Ulster dressing room all week, and Les Kiss expressed his delight at the way his players recorded a bonus point victory on the opening night of the Guinness Pro14 season.

The northern province taught the Toyota Cheetahs something of a lesson on a historic night at Ravenhill as they tamed the South African side to score six tries en route to a 42-19 win.

The Cheetahs got off to a fast start — scoring two early tries to lead 14-8 after 26 minutes — but Ulster responded with some pulsating rugby of their own and had the bonus point wrapped up by half time.

Speaking afterwards, director of rugby Kiss said it was important his side delivered on the opening night in front of their home fans.

“To be at Kingspan and show what this place means to us, it was important,” he said.

“I think the other factors that were really important were becoming a better team week in, week out and I think our bench came on and delivered. We want to recognise the guys that didn’t play.

“We’ve certainly got a bit more traction in what we’re trying to do and there’s some nice stuff that came through that we’re trying to build on. There’s a fair way to go. There are going to be a lot of teams this week that are first and a lot of teams that are second and that’s all it is at this stage.”

Chris Henry and Niell Jordaan Chris Henry and Niell Jordaan at the end of the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tommy Bowe, Alan O’Connor, Stuart McCloskey and Charles Piutau all crossed in the first half as Ulster pulled clear when Henco Venter was sitting in the bin. Louis Ludik and Peter Nelson added scores in the second half, with Cheetahs captain Niell Jordaan describing the hosts’ performance as ‘world class’.

“I think that’s a bit of a stretch,” Kiss said, without getting carried away. “You’ve got to take the good and bad and learn the lessons. I think we’ve learned some and put into place. It’s still a nice feeling to get that done in that fashion against a good team. I was bloody nervous before this game and it was important we raised to the challenge and certainly weren’t shy to each other about how good they are. They will be good this year.

“Happy where it is at the moment but it’s only one game into the season. We actually left one or two with a better decision here or there. I think it’s been proven that teams that can keep pressure on and be clinical at the same time, they start to put the scores together over the season. I still think we took the wrong option at times.

“We did a lot better things with a lot better flow. The boys trusted their skillsets but the big thing for me was that we were positive and our appetite to play positive rugby in that first half was evident. It was good for the game, for a historic match like that you’d have to be happy with where it ended up.”

On the injury front, Kiss reported no major concerns ahead of the trip to Treviso next week with Piutau withdrawn as a precaution when he started to feel his hamstring tighten.

Kyle McCall will have an x-ray on his finger after he dislocated it in the warm-up while Robbie Diack suffered a ‘massive blow’ to his hip pointer and will be monitored over the coming days.

Kiss will, however, have Ireland internationals Jacob Stockdale, Kieran Treadwell and Luke Marshall back in contention for next week.

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Six-try Ulster match fire with fire to thump Cheetahs in thrilling Ravenhill contest

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