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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019
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'The game was 80 minutes wasn’t it?' Gibbes focusing on positives after Ulster's unconvincing win

Ulster snatched a victory from the death against Benetton Treviso on Friday night.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

AFTER WATCHING HIS side snatch a 23-22 victory from the jaws of defeat against Benetton on Friday night, head coach Jono Gibbes elected to focus on the Ulster’s never-say-die attitude.

After an abject performance for most of the game, a 78th minute Andrew Trimble try spared Ulster’s blushes at Kingspan Stadium and handed them a narrow one point win over the Italians.

The visitors, despite only arriving at the ground 20 minutes before kick off due to their bus being involved in a collision on the way to Belfast, put in a great performance but ultimately didn’t have enough to hold on for the four points.

And after the game, Gibbes wanted to talk about the final few moments as the Irish province picked up four crucial league points as they chase the Scarlets in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.

“The game was 80 minutes wasn’t it?” Gibbes laughed. “We needed all 80 to get ourselves in a position to win the game.

“We didn’t get it all our own way in that 80 minutes but we stayed tough enough and showed some good resilience in some key moments, and when it arrived at the end it happened we were able to get the job done.

“We came away with four points and that during international periods when it’s unglamorous but hard and important.”

It was a game where Ulster handed a debut from the start to openside flanker Aaron Hall and also introduced Academy forwards Matthew Dalton and Greg Jones from the bench due to injuries.

Missing 21 players, it was a rather unrecognisable team that took the field for Ulster, but nevertheless the squad kept going to the end to avoid what would have been a shock defeat in Belfast.

“I thought they got a taste of what it means, the atmosphere, the pressure and they understand what’s going on in the stand and they can feel the anxiety,” Gibbes claimed.

“But that’s what it’s about and the expectation when you play for this team you must rise up and embrace that. That’s great for them and great for the club.

“It’s a tick for the Academy and what Kieran and the guys are doing.

“They’ve got to keep preparing guys as those guys can come into play again. They’re expected to be finished products and that’s not always the reality but they brought enthusiasm here and it’s something to be celebrated.”

For that reason, Gibbes is taking more positives from the game than negatives and believes there’s been a lot of improvement since he joined the province in the summer even though they’re still a work in progress.

“I would say over the first 18 weeks we’ve spent together, yeah, there’s been plenty of good improvements,” he begins. “But there were a few clues on what we need to improve and they came up in the Leinster game and they came up in the Kings game.

“Now, do you solve them in a three week period? No, because they didn’t turn up in a two week period, they’ve been there in disguise in other ways. We know what it is and we have to continue in that vein.”

Next up for Ulster is a trip to Newport to take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade, a ground that hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them in previous years.

The Welsh side are coming into the game off the back of a tanking at the RDS Arena against Leinster, Gibbes’ former side, and he knows it’s going to be a big test before Ulster return to European action against Harlequins.

“It’s a great game for us because the things we need to talk about from this performance are going to be really crucial for next week,” the Kiwi coach believes.

“It’s good for our guys, and I think their preparation leading in Treviso, they were invested in it, you can’t question the appetite for work, they demonstrated that. It’s good, because we’ll need that appetite to prepare really well for the Dragons.

“I think there’s a few things you have to get right when you go to Rodney Parade, those are non-negotiables.

“First and foremost you have to arrive with the right appetite for work, it’s not a place where you can coast through or cut corners and hope you get on the right side of the ball or the referee. You get everything you earn down there.

“We’ve got to prepare and arrive there ready with the right appetite for work, with the right attitude to go and earn what we want down there because that’s the respect you show your opposition, and that’s a given for us.”

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