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'This is last chance': Trimble intent on keeping Ulster's play-off hope alive in Thomond Park

With Saracens posing a potential distraction for Munster, Trimble’s side can keep the pressure on Scarlets and Ospreys with a rare win in Limerick.

Ulster's record try-scorer shows off his new glove to Iain Henderson.
Ulster's record try-scorer shows off his new glove to Iain Henderson.
Image: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

ULSTER CO-CAPTAIN Andrew Trimble has seen his fair share of inter-provincial derbies at Thomond Park.

And yet this week’s meeting in Limerick on Saturday (kick-off 3pm, Sky Sports) is one of the biggest he’ll have been involved in, given what is at stake for the Ulstermen should they fail to beat Munster.

Last week’s 24-24 draw with Cardiff at the Kingspan Stadium means the northern province can no longer afford any slip-ups in their fight for the top four in the Guinness PRO12 – one more defeat and their fate is out of their own hands.

Saturday’s visit to the bearpit of Thomond is followed by a trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on the third-placed Ospreys before they then welcome Leinster to Belfast.

“It’s three cup finals from here on,” Trimble admits. “It’s last chance for us. We might as well give it a go.

There’s no point in trying to be down there and try to manage the game, we have to produce a big performance. Hold on to the ball, go through the phases, stretch them and be very physical in defence.

“It’s a big ask but the boys are up for it. We’re positive and excited for the challenge.”

Big ask is something of an understatement: Ulster have failed to beat Munster for just under three years, home or away, and even then that last victory was a somewhat fortunate win by an under-strength side in May 2014.

It’s a testament to the difficult atmosphere in Limerick, and for Ulster it will take nothing less than their best to pick up their first win over Munster in their last seven attempts.

“I think very little needs to be said on weeks like this,” the 32-year old says.

“I’ve been down to Thomond Park I don’t know how many times. We’ve got a small bit of joy once or twice but generally you go down there and encounter a very physical Munster pack and a pretty physical 15.

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“It’s an intimidating environment and you have to get yourself ready for it. Everybody knows what to expect. If you don’t match that, you’ll be hockeyed out of the gate. We have to produce a big performance to pull it out of the bag.”

pro12 table

The problem is Ulster have struggled to produce a big performance like that in their last two matches, a highlight on how inconsistent they have been this season.

They scraped past the Dragons at Rodney Parade, and last week’s draw with the Blues was less than ideal at a time where Ulster badly needed four points. But if they are to snatch a play-off place from either the Scarlets or Ospreys, then they will need to show a lot more resolve than they have in the last few weeks.

I suppose off the back of a performance that was less than what we can produce, we can’t talk about consistency because we haven’t even got to that level that we want,” co-captain Trimble admits.

“I would like you to ask the same question next week after a big performance and then we can talk about consistency. We just have to get up to that level first.

“Our physicality on (defence), our urgency to get set, our line speed, our decisions with ball in hand, there’s a lot of stuff that has to fall into place.

“This is last chance. We’ve got three cup finals and we have to show how good we can be because we still believe it.

“A lot of people don’t believe it but that’s because we haven’t proved it, so that’s fair enough.”

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