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Dublin: 12°C Monday 19 April 2021

'One bad performance doesn't make you a bad team' - Rory Best

The Ulster hooker says his team will learn from last week’s defeat.

Rory Best has said that Ulster will move on from last week's disappointment.
Rory Best has said that Ulster will move on from last week's disappointment.
Image: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

AFTER losing seven lineouts on their own throw in their opening Champions Cup game with Leicester last weekend, Ulster hooker Rory Best says the first step is to accept that mistakes were made.

However, the crucial second step is to learn from it, move on and remember just what it was that made the lineout work so well in the first place.

“We were fairly honest with ourselves in the performance review,” Best told this week.

“A couple of bad throws, a couple of bad calls, a couple of bad lifts. We were a bit slow and it was probably symptomatic of our game in that we were just mentally a little bit off the pace.

“I think the big thing for us is to make sure that – even if you have to be hard on yourself in the review – we have a little bit of perspective on it.

“I think we went three games in a row without losing a lineout and you can probably count on one hand the amount of lineouts we’ve lost this season before the Leicester game.

“One bad performance doesn’t make you a bad team or a bad unit so we just have to make sure that – yes, we’re pretty annoyed and we set our standards very high and we don’t want to slip back there again – but there’s been a reason why we’ve been building nicely.

“I think mentally we just took our eye off the ball a little bit which is bitterly disappointing in a big game.”

The 32-year old says that while it’s difficult to put his finger on exactly what happened, he feels it might have something to do with how well they played against Glasgow in the Guinness Pro12 the previous week.

“It’s hard to know really. We were coming off the high of the big Glasgow game and I think we started the Leicester game really, really well.

“We went through phases, we put them under pressure, we got our three points and then – because the Glasgow game had went so well – and we talked about starting well and putting pressure on a team that were searching for performances and results a little bit, we felt we’d done all that and ticked all the boxes.

“It’s only now in hindsight you look back and and go, I wonder did we just think ‘yeah, we’ve done everything we want now, the rest will fall into place’.

“Away from home, we let that Tigers team come back into it and they took their chances.

“We got scrappy and as the pressure came on we had a 30 minute period in that first half where we just compounded error with error and went from 7-3 down in the blink of an eye to 19-3 and a yellow card.

“You can’t do that at this level and expect to win the game.”

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The 77-time capped international also feels that panic set in a little bit and, with the game moving so quickly, they didn’t have time to readjust until half-time, by which stage it was almost too late.

“There was a little [panic] and thankfully half-time came and we were able to get in and take stock and get things calmed down on the pitch. That can be the disadvantage of a reasonably young team or a reasonably young back line.

“Sometimes you need a break in play but there wasn’t many breaks in play so we had to wait until half-time.

“Jacko [Paddy Jackson] came in and just spoke about getting our composure back and just going from there and the leaders all spoke well in there and said ‘we need to go out in the second half and play well but we’re still in with a shout here and who’s to say we can’t come back’.

“In fairness to the boys they dug in well and came back and we could have nearly snatched it at the weekend.”

Best does admit that it can be difficult to believe in yourself after such a disappointing performance but his wealth of experience helps in these situations.

“You try to stick to your routine but it’s fairly challenging. It’s a fickle world where you go from man of the match one week to struggling the next and all of a sudden people are questioning you.

“It can be mentally very challenging but the thing for me, unfortunately, is that it’s not the first time in my career that the lineout hasn’t been perfect but over the last number of years we’ve had more times perfect lineouts than imperfect but, I suppose, people are quick to forget that.

“But I just have to ignore that and knuckle down and keep doing what I’ve been doing over the last couple of years and you have to try and have a lot of confidence in your own ability which is sometimes either said than done.”

With Toulon visiting Ravenhill this weekend, Best doesn’t buy into the hype that the French side are physically more imposing than other teams. Instead, he feels it’s their international experience that sees them control games.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re more athletic. They just have a wealth of experience, an abundance of internationals. You get better the more you play at that level, you experience new things and you learn how to cope with them.

“When you’re talking about a squad of that experience, they know how to deal with various things thrown at them and they’ve played at the top level and perform well there.”

Additional reporting from Murray Kinsella.

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Steve O'Rourke

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