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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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'People have written us off but now they think this is a team who can go and win the title'

Ulster are in buoyant mood after blowing Leinster away but now must prove their credentials again this weekend.

Marshall in training this afternoon.
Marshall in training this afternoon.

ULSTER HAVE BEEN working to ensure their swashbuckling performance against Leinster wasn’t a one-off as they prepare for Saturday’s make-or-break trip to Wales to face Ospreys.

Les Kiss’ side boosted their play-off ambitions with a big win over their provincial rivals last time out but now must replicate that intensity in the final Pro12 game of the regular season.

Heading to the Liberty Stadium, Ulster know any slip-up could prove fatal and even a victory might not be enough to see them finish in the top four.

Anything less than five points would leave the northern province nervously looking over their shoulder with Scarlets, who face Munster in Limerick, just one point behind in fifth position.

“We were very pleased with our performance last week but know we have to back it up this weekend,” Luke Marshall told The42. “We can take confidence from scoring as many points and keeping them try-less but it won’t count for anything unless we do the job on Saturday.

“We have to get a result at Ospreys because we can’t rely on other results going our way, we need to get the win over there.

Luke Marshall Marshall spoke to the press at Ravenhill. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

“We spoke this week about the great teams backing up a great result with another big performance and that’s what we want to try and do this week.”

After a season of mixed fortunes, Ulster have started to click into gear just at the right time with an away defeat to leaders Glasgow their only reversal in five outings.

While Marshall admits it’s disappointing they find themselves facing a do-or-die scenario on the final weekend, the centre says the players feel they’re finally hitting peak form.

“I think from the Connacht game four weeks ago we knew it was knock-out rugby from there and we were targeting every game because we’d got ourselves in that position after losing a few games,” he continued.

“We know we’ve needed to go out and win every game so nothing has really changed over the last few weeks but there’s obviously that added pressure going out against Ospreys.

“It’s definitely a challenge, not being at home and playing in a football stadium means it will be half full at best but that’s the challenge I suppose.

“Since we’ve got our full strength team together over the last four weeks or so we’re starting to gel a lot more and there’s been consistency in our performances and partnerships are starting to click.

Les Kiss Les Kiss is hoping to guide the province to silverware in his first season at the helm. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

“It’s good that it’s come together, it would have been better and less stressful if we’d have put a few better performances together earlier in the season but if we get to the semis we will be very happy.”

Although reaching the play-offs, for a club of Ulster’s stature and a squad brimming with international pedigree, isn’t enough to render the season as a success.

The Ravenhill trophy cabinet is gathering dust at this stage with their last piece of silverware coming a decade ago.

The province fell at the final hurdle in Europe four years ago and in the Pro12 in 2013 and Marshall is fully aware that the current crop need to deliver sooner rather than later.

“There’s a lot of pressure, we’re obviously disappointed to not get through in Europe so the league has been the thing we’ve been concentrating on and to not make the play-offs would be massively disappointing,” the 25-year-old added.

“The calibre of players who have at the minute, we really want to get into the semi and push on and potentially get silverware. Over the last few seasons it’s been pretty disappointing that we haven’t got silverware in either competition so it’s definitely a motivating factor and adds more pressure to win this weekend.

“People have written us off, probably before the Connacht game and said this is a team which won’t make the play-offs. But people are now starting to think that Ulster can challenge and win the title and hopefully it will help us having that underdog tag.

“When we finally achieve that [silverware], people will start rating us a bit higher but it’s up to us to do that.”

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Ryan Bailey

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