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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019

'We pride ourselves on defence': Best not willing to settle for just a bonus point win

The captain is gritting teeth for Ulster’s tough run-in.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 08.30

ULSTER CAPTAIN RORY Best certainly wasn’t resting on his laurels or hiding behind a bonus point win away to Connacht.

It would have been easy to put on a blank expression and point out that Leinster and Munster have lost in Galway.

Instead, Connacht’s home record only got a passing mention after Best had admitted the frustration of conceding two second half tries that made the visitors sweat right up until the final whistle came in a sudden rainstorm.

“We pride ourselves on defence,” Best told The42, “we don’t’ give up scores. When we get ahead, normally, we don’t let teams back into it. The frustrating thing is that it wasn’t systems errors, it was missed tackles. Which is easily fixed on one hand, but to slip off tackles like that is a bit frustrating.”

Best had a close up view of one such slip from Chris Henry, the skipper moving in behind his flanker preparing to jackal only to see Matt Healy step inside both breakdown specialists on his way to a game-reviving try. For the most part though, it was a more straightforward route taken by Connacht in the second half.

“We were a bit soft around the fringes with them. We knew they’d come and carry hard round there and I felt they were winning, edging us a yard, a yard, a yard… then getting front foot ball. It was frustrating giving them that, but we knew coming here was going to be difficult – credit to the lads, they prepared all week for it and we fronted up by and large.”

There it is, the positive side.

Best was more than forthcoming with where he felt his side struggled, yet the league’s second-placed side were at times clinical in attack, scoring two quick-fire turnover tries to cut Connacht adrift at 17 – 0 before half-time.

“The way Jacko [Paddy Jackson] dealt with that turnover ball coming back; utilising the short side, it proved vital to get the two tries. We definitely needed more than five points [of a lead] at half time and those two scores got us there. It was fairly pivotal for us.”

Rodney Ah You and Rory Best Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It could well prove pivotal in more than just an isolated 80 minutes, but for Ulster’s season. The province desperately wants to be part of the Grand Final when it is played in Kingspan Stadium next month. Standing in their way of a home semi-final is the toughest run-in in the league; Leinster, Ulster and the leaders Glasgow.

It’s tough at the top, and Best is ready for the chance to prove Ulster’s title credentials against three of their direct rivals.

It’s a tough run-in, but at the end of the season, you have to play everyone and beat everyone if you want to win the competition. We’ve put ourselves in a good position. We’ve two weeks to prepare for the next game [Leinster at home] and we’ll go in to that confident.

“It was a good win here – Connacht: what is it, one loss and a draw in the Pro12? – to come here and win is brilliant, but to get five points we’ve got to be very pleased with a lot of aspects of that game.”

They should be, but it’s titles and trophies that this Ulster outfit crave.

Originally published at 21.41 on 12 April 

Aki’s non-try and more talking points after Connacht lose to Ulster

Toulon conceded four tries to Jackman’s Grenoble (but still won) before Leinster clash

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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