Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Tyrone Howe: Self-belief can help Ulster through another tough away day

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin

Just over three months ago, Ulster faced a situation in which they had to go away from home and win in the final match of the Heineken Cup qualifying stages.

Aironi may not have been the most difficult of opponents that day, but Ulster came through that particular mental test in some style.

That, along with other milestones this season, has helped to cement the foundations of a solid self-belief. The squad and management find themselves in a similar position in ten days time having to secure at least a point away at the Dragons in order to qualify for the knockout stages of the Magners League. Once again, Ulster will have to delve into that ever-expanding pool of experience to come through this final test.

It feels as though we have been at the business end of the season for quite a while now. Post-Six Nations, every match has some sort of impact on league position and consequent aspiration, and the team have ticked along very nicely with more than their fair share of last-minute dramatic moments.

Ulster’s victory over Connacht may not have been quite so dramatic, but these derby games are never easy. Fighting a constant battle against the perception of being the poor relatives of Irish rugby, Connacht take particular pride in their performances against their provincial rivals. In the recent past, they have made life extremely difficult for Leinster and Munster. In a similar way, the Dragons seem to reserve their best performances for Welsh derby games, as they did less than two weeks ago by shocking the Ospreys.

Of course, a bonus point victory over Connacht would have been the perfect result but, having faced our western neighbours over the years, an 11-point margin and registering three tries to one is a result which I would have been happy to take.

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