©INPHO/James Crombie

Despite defeat, Ulster are now the equal of Leinster - Anscombe

The Ulster coach did his best to avoid criticising the referee, but failed in the end.

AFTER 12 MONTHS in the job, Mark Anscombe is happy with the progress Ulster have made.

Despite watching his side lose 18-24 to Leinster in the Pro12 Grand Final, the Kiwi coach looked back fondly on the season just passed.

Asked to sum up his year, he joked:

“Enjoyable, long, enjoyable, cold, wet”, but his face soon turned serious again.

“Look, we finished last year, when I wasn’t here, and I heard the guys talking about the Heineken Cup [final against Leinster]. They got cleaned out.

“But we haven’t played brilliantly today. We played well in pieces, but I think we showed today that we’re the equal of Leinster now.

“The guys that are coming back from injury next year, I take a lot of heart that we can look forward to next year as a province.”

Alongside his captain Johann Muller, Anscombe initially did his best to resist the opportunity to criticise referee John Lacey’s handling of the game, insisting that the better side had indeed won out.

“Discipline.” Anscombe replied when reviewing the defeat. “Little things. It’s important in these big games, you want to get the start, the ascendancy going your way.

“A couple of lazy penalties by us meant that, without playing any rugby, they were five-metres from our try-line.  Two minutes into the game and we’re 7-0 down.”

While captain Johann Muller called the breakdown ‘a lottery’ Anscombe preferred to withhold an opinion on the rucks until he had reviewed the game in full.

His ire, however, was drawn by an early turnover when Ulster looked set to push for a third scrum penalty in as many minutes.

“My understanding is that when the ball is in the scrum that the half-back isn’t allowed touch anyone in the scrum. My view was that Isaac Boss had a free grab at Nick Williams there today.”


When asked if an All-Irish final would be better served by a non-Irish referee, he responded:

“I’m not bitching about John Lacey, I think he’s a promising referee. I just think the showcase of a tournament, surely the most experienced referee should do the job.”

The RDS final may well have had a different outcome, though, had Robbie Diack not spurned a gilt-edged first half opportunity to score in the right hand corner. Anscombe, refused to lay the blame at the flanker’s door.

“We’ve got a man in there who has had a great season who is hurting like hell. It didn’t cost us the game, though he’s feeling as if it has. It didn’t.

“When you get close to the goal-line it’s about getting to the goal-line. They did that well, we only had one opportunity and we’ll be better for that.”

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