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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020
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Kiss disappointed not to see 'foot on the throat' when sin-bins hit Sarries

The Australian endured a nightmare European Cup debut.

Sean Farrell reports from Kingspan Stadium

LES KISS WON’T forget his European debut as Ulster Director of Rugby in a hurry.

Defeats as comprehensive as this one will always find a way of clamping on to some dark recess of the brain’s memory bank.

Les Kiss Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland’s former defence coach looked quietly furious when he pulled up a seat overlooking the field where his side had just suffered a 9 – 27 battering in Champions Cup Pool 1. To be outplayed for 80 minutes, or lose attempting to reel in a deficit are probably more palatable options right now for a coach who watched his team start well, before losing their way.

“The first 25 minutes, we certainly positioned the game where we would have liked it,” Kiss said after Paddy Jackson had kicked Ulster to a 9 – 0 lead.

Yet even by that stage, there were golden opportunities passed up. The matter of whether Michael Rhodes ought to have been shown a red card after just four minutes was cut short by a, “it doesn’t matter now.” Although his teeth did grit ever so slightly when he uttered: “It certainly had to be yellow at least“.

Kiss’ big disappointment in his first big half of rugby in Ravenhill was that Ulster only managed to scrap their way to three points at the very tail end of Rhodes’ early rest stop.

“It was disappointing in that 10-minute period in the first half that we didn’t take advantage and put the foot on the throat.

“A couple of back-to-back errors gave them access to our end, and they did well to get the try. Then 9 – 5 is very different to 9- 0 at half-time and they certainly would have built some confidence on that in the second half.”

The back-to-back errors and the breaching of the defensive line were like dominoes set to send Ulster tumbling. Yet they still led when a typical moment of Iain Henderson athleticism brought Saracens a second yellow card. The line-out drive off the subsequent was efficiently defended and rebuffed by the visitors and the game never felt close again.

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‘When they go down to 14 they seem to have lifted…’

“We had a chance in the second half to get up there and assert ourselves we just didn’t work hard enough to make the opportunities come our way.”

The Australian adds: “We spoke in the dressing room, when they go down to 14 they seem to have lifted and we seemed to… not play the type of football that we probably planned to.

“If we had got to that space, maybe we could have hurt them, but it wasn’t to be.”

Saracens' players celebrate their last try of the night Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“They kicked the corners really well, we didn’t cover the grass well, we didn’t take advantage of grass that was available to us and turn them around.”

There can be no genuine positives after handing a pool rival a winning bonus point in your own home ground, but if the dark and dreary mood is just too much at the minute, try these on for size: At least Ulster lost by a smaller margin than Toulouse. And, hey, there are still five games to bounce back.

Those sort of false positives will be particularly cold comfort to Kiss this morning. He’d rather just forget it happened.

‘Bonus point was beyond our wildest dreams’: McCall’s Saracens setting the standard in Europe

Goode grief: Ulster undone as Saracens claim bonus point in Belfast

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Sean Farrell

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