Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Ulster coach McLaughlin looking for X-factor

Leinster's Saturday night victory over Munster at the Aviva Stadium means Ulster are the only unbeaten side in the 12-strong Magners League.

Brian McLaughlin’s men now are in third place, one point shy of parity with Munster who continue to lead by virtue of their three bonus points.

Ulster’s Magners League run — now up to seven matches without defeat — continued thanks to Friday night’s 19-17 win over Glasgow at Ravenhill. That result saw an important goal achieved, Ulster having set themselves the target of going into the Heineken Cup unbeaten in the Magners League.

“We knew it was going to be very competitive and the match turned out to be very tight. Glasgow pushed us hard,” McLaughlin acknowledged.

“We're happy with the result but we still have a fair bit to go in terms of performance as we are making too many basic errors.

“We need to hold onto the ball and we have to push away from sides when we get our noses in front. It's good to get the results but we want to play quality rugby.

“We defended well but again it was just those little things — for example giving away penalties at vital times that cost us dearly. We’ve got to make sure we cut those things out so we’re not giving points away.”

That was a view echoed by the players. Like their coach they were pleased to have bagged four more Magners League points; like their coach they are keen to up their level of performance.

Captain Rory Best, who was making his 100th competitive appearance for Ulster, spoke for the team when he said: “I suppose over the past four or five weeks the big thing to have come out of games is that we need to look after ourselves.

“We’re playing below par at the minute but we’re getting wins. If we can really start to up our performance we can compete with anyone.”

He was happy with the Ulster scrum, lauding the work of Bryan Young on the loose head side and Tom Court who moved across to three where he more held his own, adding that there is “plenty of weight in the back five”.

Against an Aironi pack crammed with Italian internationals, they will need every ounce of that.

“We were awarded most of the penalties and frees (for scrum infringements),” Best noted after the Glasgow game “So while it’s not everything you could ask for at the moment, it’s quite a way towards being the really good scrum we want it to be.”

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