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Dublin: 2°C Monday 25 January 2021

Quiet man Moore intent on generating platform and energy for Ulster

‘If someone does something well, we make sure that they know about it. ‘

Moore strives to make a tackle against Scarlets.
Moore strives to make a tackle against Scarlets.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THOSE IN THE front row are said to be versed in the ‘dark arts’, but there could only be glowing reviews about Ulster’s scrummaging performance last Friday.

Against an all-international Scarlets front three, Ulster’s front row managed to mine three penalties, huge in a 25-24 win which puts them in a strong position to reach the knockouts of the Champions Cup for the first time since 2014.

Loosehead prop Eric O’Sullivan had Wales international Samson Lee in his back pocket as he put in a sublime 80-minute, 22 tackle performance, while Rory Best won the battle of the Lions hookers as he took Ken Owens apart.

But the final member of Ulster’s front row, and perhaps the least heralded so far, is Marty Moore who kept another international in Rob Evans quiet on the other side.

“It’s definitely a step in the direction that we wanted to go,” says the 27-year-old.

“From the first round of Europe to now we’ve been building on that platform and showing what our backs can do.

“Watching the game back, it was evident how vital that set-piece platform was in opening up the spaces to put them in position. It’s a big bonus when we put in that type of performance.

We’ve got a lot of new combinations, and players, and even coaches, it takes a while for those mini-groups within the scrum to all come together. I think that’s starting to stick and glue now, it’s starting to pay dividends.

“It’s something we knew that if we stuck with it then it would come. We had the quality in the squad but it was about building those relationships.”

One thing emphasised after the game by man of the match Will Addison was the boost given to the back-line by the success of the scrum, describing it as ‘oxygen’.

“That’s something we speak about in the squad,” says the former Leinster tighthead, “with our actions we try and energise each other, especially going to somewhere like Parc y Scarlets.

“We knew we wouldn’t have 10,000 people there cheering us on, we knew we’d have to make our own atmosphere. That’s something we have to do every week. Small or big, we have to make those moments count.

If someone does something well, we make sure that they know about it. If forwards go well in the set-piece it lifts people. As a forward it’s the best thing in the world if after a set-piece you’re having to run forward because the backs have gotten over the gainline.

“That makes all the difference, the two units building off each other.”

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As well as the tight five effort, the entire team put in arguably their best performance this season for a huge, and rare, away win to a formidable opponent.

Ulster were clinical in the red zone, exhibited a line-speed in defence not yet seen this season and, of course, the pack stepped up in all areas of the set-piece.

A general view Eric O'Sullivan, Rory Best and Marty Moore's Ulster jerseys Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think it’s not just props. We’re a team that wants to work hard and pushes the pace. We never want to slow the game down, we want to be the aggressor and push the pace,” he says.

“That’s a lot of work. You might be working really hard and only make five or six tackles or doing the same and making 15 or 16, unfortunately, as a prop it’s usually the latter. I think as a team that’s the way we want to play our rugby.

“We were on the sidelines, the guys that had come off, and you could see the energy they still had, the will to win, it was phenomenal. It’s a tough place to go and win, we shouldn’t underestimate the task that that was last week.”

Impressive strides forward, but the Castleknock man isn’t getting carried away with the win in Llanelli, complacency is the buzz word around the Kingspan this week. The ghosts of a 2012 round 4 loss to Northampton in Ravenhill, a week after a win in Franklin’s Gardens, will serve a warning as they reach for what would be another huge four points.

“The big thing is that we don’t get complacent. They’re a dangerous side, they’ve got nothing to lose and they’ll look to come here and play some expansive rugby, that’s something they do very well,” claims Moore.

“We really have to keep our eyes on the prize and make the most of the home advantage. It’s about mindset, we’ve spoken about going to a hostile environment.

“That was my first ever win at Parc y Scarlets, going right the way back to the (Leinster) academy, that’s how hard a place it is to win. We have to have that mindset again. With the prep we have, that should hopefully be the case.”

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