Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Tyrone Howe: Aironi battles perfectly timed for Ulster bonus

In the next two weeks, Ulster face Aironi with one clear goal — two bonus point wins.

Victory in both Heineken Cup encounters is realistic, but four tries, especially away from home could prove a lot more difficult. The ability to perform at the Stadio Brianteo may hinge on the confidence and momentum gained from this Friday night at Ravenhill.

Aironi’s form is decidedly dodgy. They have shipped almost 90 points in two games and their confidence is bound to be dented.

Basically, there is no better time to be playing these fixtures, but Ulster may have to take a few risks. In terms of selection, even with the arrival of Stefan Terblanche, one of the first names on my teamsheet would be Adam D’Arcy. He has shown enough of his attacking and counterattacking prowess to merit a major role in the offensive effort.

Despite the horrendous start last weekend against the Scarlets, I was enormously heartened by the performance.

Had a final pass stuck, not drifted forward, or had the ball bounced the right way, Ulster could easily have won by 25 points, which would have seemed like an emphatic result and more reflective of the performance.

The team isn’t far away from scoring a lot of points. The players are currently one pass or offload away from clicking, but time is short. The opportunity is now.

Patience and composure are crucial and central to success will be the kicking strategy employed. Chasing territory in order to put the opposition under pressure is a worthwhile tactic, but kicking ball away in attacking parts of the pitch allows the opposition to get off the hook far too easily.

The driven maul will soften Aironi up, ball carriers can get across the gainline and quick ball will allow the launch of effective attacks.

If the players can keep their cool with ball in hand, a bonus points is there for the taking.

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