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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 6 December, 2019
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Composure key to Ulster's quick turnaround against Leinster -- Rory Best

The hooker praised the attitude and belief built between the province’s players and coaching staff.

ULSTER CAPTAIN RORY Best could afford to see the funny side as he spoke in a room overlooking a sodden Kingspan Stadium last night.

Rory Best with Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D'Arcy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Best had just helped his side place the final nail in Leinster’s hope of defending the Pro12 title with a resounding 26 -10 win. However, after The42 suggested that maybe going 10 points down in the opening 10 minutes wasn’t part of the gameplan, the hooker looks back on the best laid plans and came up with a deadpan shrug.

“We talked during the week that, if we were in their position with a five-day turnaround, we’d try and burst out of the traps really quickly and try to blow us away.

“That’s what we were gearing for and it’s exactly what happened – which is eh… obviously not ideal.”

Best’s easy smile fades away again, the damaged padding on his right arm is placed on the desk and he thinks back to the message he gave his Ulster side when Jimmy Gopperth was adding the conversion to Ben Te’o’s excellent try.

“Under the posts I was just saying, ‘keep our composure’.

“There was a wee bit of nerves; a few silly errors, a missed tackle or two. I just said, ‘let’s get a hold of the ball, let’s get the game and take it down their end of the pitch for a wee bit rather than sitting and waiting back’.

“The big thing was that from the kick-off, they got it back, but our defence was really good. We looked like we were on the money. You just had a feeling we were up for it. Then to come back and to get that try – great line from Hendy – was good to get from 10 – 0 to 10 all quite quickly. You could see it lifted us a lot, that we weren’t chasing the game for a long time from behind.

“It’s credit to the boys and the attitude and belief we’ve built between the management and the players.

”Even from that [point, the message] was: ‘composure. Move on and make sure you affect the next play and make sure we get back in to it’.

Craig Gilroy celebrates his try with Louis Ludik Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Aside from composure and attitude though, Ulster won last night’s inter-pro because they exploited Leinster’s biggest weakness, their energy levels. After a sapping 100 minutes in the rain in Marseille, another soft surface in Belfast would have taken a heavy toll on Leinster legs even if the hosts had not been intent on constantly making them move around when most would go route one and up the jumper in such conditions.

“A game like that it’s about keeping the ball making them make tackles,” said Best, shrugging off the suggestion that they ought to have yielded more than three points when Sean O’Brien was sin-binned in the first half.

John Lacey sends Sean O'Brien to the sinbin Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

“When they were down to 14 you want to score points, but at the same time we’re there going, ‘look let’s make them make tackles. Let’s tire them out, take them through the phases .‘

“And probably when they got the second yellow that’s when we got the dividend because they were quite tired at that stage. Defending with 14 again proved a bit more tricky for them.”

Best was called ashore soon after. Before taking up a seat on the bench he had strict set-piece instruction for props Andrew Warwick and Bronson Ross. He marched off with the score 19 -10, the job was almost done, but he was still a long way from cracking a smile or that joke.

With a semi-final assured, Ulster have a job almost done, but the hooker will make sure nobody around Ravenhill is celebrating prematurely.

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Sean Farrell

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