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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Four from four, but Ulster and Kiss wary of making the same mistakes as last season

The northern province have made an excellent start to this season but nobody is getting carried away at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster ran in eight tries last night.
Ulster ran in eight tries last night.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

AMAZINGLY, AFTER PUTTING more than 50 points on the Dragons, Ulster’s director of rugby Les Kiss still refused to get carried away with the performance.

It’s been something of a recurring narrative for the Australian. But after Ulster’s fourth consecutive victory to start the season, Kiss still wasn’t wavering from the business-like response he’s given so far.

You wouldn’t have blamed him if he had after putting eight tries past a hapless and much-changed Dragons side in a 52-25 win at Kingspan Stadium that takes the Ulstermen to the top of Conference B of the Guinness Pro14.

But aiming not to make the same mistakes of last season, when Ulster won their opening five games of the season only to collapse, Kiss is still looking at what to improve on ahead of next week’s trip to Zebre.

“It was very pleasing that they went out there and when we needed to be clinical we were,” Kiss did admit, before getting down to business.

“We put the scoreline out there, even though we left a few out there. We scored regularly through the game. I would have liked one later on to just tidy things up.

“The guys were focused on how they went about their business and got the reward.

“There are work-ons, but I think it’s important that the group recognise that if we prepare well, understand what we’re doing, and stick to the plan then you can achieve things.

“It’s still not going to be good enough in three weeks’ time if we don’t keep evolving.”

If the first three weeks were a chance to see how the new coaching staff and squad were working together, last night’s win was the opportunity for Ulster’s squad depth to come to the fore, and boy did it.

Nick Timoney scores his second try Nick Timoney scored a brace on his first senior start. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Led by academy number eight Nick Timoney, who scored twice on his first start for the province, a side featuring nine changes to the one that defeated the Scarlets shot out of the blocks early and had the bonus point wrapped up by the 27th minute.

As Kiss alluded to, the scoreline could have been much better and could have had us scrambling for the record books, but on a night where new combinations were forged and fringe players got opportunities, the scoreline was impressive.

“We’ve talked about how the squad has to do a job,” Kiss revealed. “Outside of the 23 has really done a job preparing the team all season and then tonight they got a chance to go out there and show what they could do and they did it well.

“The last 18 months, we’ve been trying to build the depth in the right way. The way we’ve worked in the summer, some things are coming to fruition, some aren’t, but we have to keep working in the right way.”

A trip to Parma to face winless Zebre is next for the unbeaten Ulstermen, one of two teams left with an 100% record so far, and it’s likely that the coaching staff will opt to rotate again before a busy October.

A bonus point will no doubt be the expectation from the Pro14’s basement team, especially given the ease with which Ulster saw off the Dragons.

However, Kiss is still urging his side not to become complacent or stray away from their meticulous planning which has served them well for the start of their campaign.

Dorian Jones and Owain Leonard tackle Tommy Bowe Tommy Bowe in action last night. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“If we want to keep things going then we have to work hard when it matters, which is Monday and Tuesday,” he demanded of his charges. “We need to do all we need to make sure we prepare completely.

“We’re doing that pretty well at the minute but we haven’t worked on all part of our games fully. We’re putting new things together and the boys are responding to it.”

He added: “The truth is as a team of coaches were still saying that we’re not good enough in a couple of areas of the game. It’s positive. It’s important to stay positive and talk about those things that we’re doing well. But we have to be real about where we need to grow.

“As a coaching team we’re growing. Every day we’re learning something new off each other and challenge each other in different ways. That’s not in isolation, it’s with the group of players and not pretending how we know how things are going to end up.

“We’ve just got to work hard each day and I’m really pleased with what (we’re) bringing.”

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