Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Henry Browne Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes.
# Unimpressed
'It felt a lot worse than the scoreboard suggested' - Gibbes disgruntled with Cardiff defeat
Ulster suffered a bruising 35-17 away defeat to Cardiff at the Arms Park last night.

ULSTER HEAD COACH Jono Gibbes was scathing in his assessment of his side’s latest defeat as they went down 35-17 to the Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park in the Guinness Pro14.

It’s the latest in a long line of away losses for the northern province this season, with this their second consecutive reversal in Wales where they’ve conceded at least four tries.

From the moment the excellent Jarrod Evans crossed for the Blues’ first try after just two minutes to Dillon Lewis’ bonus point try with the clock in the red in the second half, Ulster were far and away second best in the Welsh capital.

The harsh reality is Gibbes’ side are now on the verge of missing out on the play-offs as they are 14 points behind third placed Edinburgh, and they could soon be overtaken by Benetton for a place in the Champions Cup play-off.

“It felt a lot worse than the scoreboard suggested,” said an angry Gibbes. “That’s a really deflating performance. There’s not a lot we can hang our hats on there or be proud of.

“The scoreboard isn’t a fair reflection of how utterly we weren’t in that game. I’m not even sure how well they played, to be honest. It’s pretty deflating.

Ulster’s Charles Piutau Inpho / Billy Stickland Ulster players dejected. Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

“There’s nothing that we want to be associated with. We don’t want to tolerate that or accept that. We worked hard during the week and that’s a let down. That’s a let down for a lot of people.

“There’s guys not in the 23 that helped us prepare and they’ll be sat at home watching that and they’ll be rightfully… disgusted might be too strong, but certainly feeling let down.”

It’s not a new thing either, Ulster’s form on the road has been so below par they haven’t won outside of Belfast since December, and in league action that record stretches back even further to November.

Now they are on a three-match losing skid and have won just two of their last seven in all competitions – a record that could leave them without Champions Cup rugby for next season if it’s not arrested quickly.

There are questions that must be answered of course, and Gibbes doesn’t hide away from asking some of them himself.

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The Kiwi coach pondered: “There’s things that we’ve got to look at. Was the selection right? Did we coach well enough? The players will bring their final bit to the piece too. It’s all something we’ve to look at.

“I think it’s safe to assume all three weren’t good enough. There’s nothing really that we want to associate ourselves with from that performance. There’s nothing in that performance that we aspire to be. There was nothing positive.

Dillon Lewis celebrates his bonus point try with teammates Billy Stickland / INPHO Dillon Lewis celebrates his bonus point try with team-mates. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s not good enough and it doesn’t reflect what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to work in and what we’re trying to put pride in.

“It’s just not good enough. We have to look at ourselves and come up with an idea about what can transfer onto the pitch in Murrayfield in two weeks’ time.”

A practical response is required and, after a week off for the European quarter-finals, they’ll be looking to get it away to third-placed Edinburgh in what is now a make or break game for this team.

Lose and their play-off ambitions are officially over, win and suddenly new life is breathed into a campaign that up to this point has lacked impetus, even if it’s only to solidify their place in fourth and that European play-off.

But what would those practical improvements be?

“I think it’s consistency of habits in the game,” Gibbes claims. “You’ll notice that we gave away cheap penalties. Cardiff didn’t really have to earn them, we didn’t put pressure on the referee to make sound technical judgements. They were all pretty easier.

“We’ve got to get better at that. If we get better around those sorts of things we’ll be harder to beat. You watch that game, Danny (Wilson) obviously did a great job and they were good value, but we weren’t that hard to beat and that’s hurtful to say.”

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