INPHO/Dan Sheridan Ulster's Iain Henderson is tackled by Manoa Vosawai of Benetton Treviso.
heavy toll

Ulster counting the cost after Henderson and Payne injured in home win

Head coach Mark Anscombe is sweating on some fitness reports following his team’s five-try win over Treviso.

ULSTER’S FIRST TRY-SCORING bonus point of the season was enough to elevate them past Munster into fourth place in the league but their home win came at a cost.

Iain Henderson, Jared Payne and Ricky Lutton all picked up knocks in the 32 — 13 victory over Benetton Treviso at Ravenhill. An arm injury to versatile forward Henerson looked the most serious — he left the pitch in some discomfort and with his arm in a makeshift sling — but Ulster are playing it cautiously before issuing any fitness updates.

Head coach Mark Anscombe was discomfited by the knocks to key players but had plenty of positives to take to bed with him on Friday night. Asked about Payne, the New Zealander said:

Just the hamstring strain and a bit of an ankle issue. We’ve got about three of four ankles. There are a few sore ones so we’ve got to look after them and be careful. Hopefully none of them are too serious.”

He added, “We scored some nice tries and it is not too often that anybody scores five tries against Treviso. We’ve been on the verge of tries [this season] and it hasn’t happened. Even today, a couple of bounces went their way and things were not popping up for us. I was starting to wonder when it was going to happen but we scored some nice tries.”

Anscombe praised Lutton, his starting tighthead, for grinding his way through 77 minutes of rugby after turning his ankle in the opening 10 minutes. “He did a superb job,” his coach enthused, “the guy gets better and better each week. He took a big responsibility in hanging in there for his team tonight.”

Next up for Ulster are Ospreys, and their contingent of Lions, at the Liberty Stadium. Anscombe described the challenge as “formidable” and he will be hoping to have at least one, if not two, from his wounded trio available.

Anscombe scoffed at the word rotation but cautioned ‘when you’ve got a guy like Iain Henderson, we’ve got to make sure we don’t break them’. He remains confident about the quality and quantity of his squad.

Momentum is back in Ulster’s favour but the big games will be coming thick and fast.

– Additional reporting by Megan Joyce

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