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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

Kiss full of love for Ulster's true grit as he hints at Tommy Bowe return

The province have closed the gap on Leinster and the Scarlets after last night’s win over Connacht.

Image: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

ULSTER DIRECTOR OF RUGBY Les Kiss saluted his side’s grit in their 18 – 10 defeat of Connacht on Friday night, but conceded each tie in their Guinness Pro12 run-in would be a ‘cup final’ – with long-term absentee Tommy Bowe a potential ace in the hole.

Ulster lie fourth in the table on 55 points, four and two adrift of Leinster and Scarlets respectively, although both their nearest rivals are still to play this weekend.

“We’re in the hunt still,” said Kiss. “I’m really proud of the guys tonight, they knew what was at stake and they worked hard all week. It was important that we made a stand here. I think we dominated the game and we should have got more out of it.”

Ulster failed to register a single point in the final 10 minutes when Connacht had both Shane O’Leary and Sean O’Brien consigned to the sinbin, but Kiss remained upbeat.

We probably could have done better when they had 13 men. We’ll analyse that, we’ll look at why, but from the opening whistle we drew a line in the sand. It was about good hard tactics on the back of good physical work, and I think those things came through for us.”

Flanker Iain Henderson echoed his coach’s sentiments, admitting, “It was frustrating not to make more use of those two yellow cards, and we need to make sure we’re more clued-in.”

Les Kiss Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We can look at that next week and hopefully if we come across the same situation later in the season, we’ll be able to deal with it.”

Looking ahead to the province’s remaining Pro12 fixtures, away to Zebre in two weeks’ time before hosting Leinster and travelling to Swansea to face the Ospreys, Kiss stressed that each game had the potential to define Ulster’s season.

“We need to make sure we go over to Zebre and do the deal. They won’t lie down, so we’ve got to make sure we nail that first and foremost.

I made a decision about a week and a half ago not to get hijacked by all the permutations. We go into each game as it comes, and if what we do can puts pressure on other people, that’s great.”

Tommy Bowe down injured with James Allen and Dr Eanna Falvey Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Kiss also intimated that star winger Bowe – out of action since sustaining a knee injury against Argentina in the World Cup – could yet have a bearing on Ulster’s fate this season.

“Every day Tommy is working hard. He worked hard again this morning and he’s so near it’s not funny.

But we want to be smart when we tell him to have a go at it. We’ll see where we stand for his own sake, but he’s doing what he has to do.”

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Neil Carnduff

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