Published 01/01/2007 | 00:00
Ulster legend David Humphreys' season was hanging by a thread last night after he suffered a suspected double fracture in his left arm during the province's 20-12 defeat to Leinster, in the last ever game at the Lansdowne Road stadium.
The former Ireland star suffered the injury just six minutes into the final game at a venue where he had starred so many times for his country.
The bulldozers are due to knock the old stadium down next month as part of the 365 million euro redevelopment of the Dublin 4 site.
Humphreys will have the injury X-rayed this morning, but Ulster coach Mark McCall feared the worst in what was a desperately cruel end to his final appearance at Lansdowne Road, where almost eight years ago he led Ulster to European Cup glory in the victory over Colomiers.
"It doesn't look good," said McCall. "There are probably a couple of breaks to his arm. We will have more news on that tomorrow but it doesn't look good. It is not just a bang, it is more than a bang.
"For someone who has graced that pitch the way he has graced it over the 12 or 13 years to end like that is sad for him and sad for everybody."
Paddy Wallace, who has now replaced Humphreys in the Ireland squad as back-up to Ronan O'Gara following his retirement from international rugby last season, deputised admirably, kicking three penalties and a drop-goal to give Ulster a 12-5 lead at the break.
And with Humphreys expected to be out for a couple months, particularly if his injury is a complicated fracture, Wallace will get his big opportunity to pull the strings for Ulster.
"You don't want to lose your king-pin and your play-maker after five minutes, albeit that Paddy did very well when he came on," added McCall.
"Paddy has proved with his game for Ireland in the autumn and again today that he is a very capable understudy and it is the game time that he needs as well. He is in the Ireland 22 at the moment and I am sure Eddie O'Sullivan is delighted he is going to get a run now."
Ulster captain Simon Best said it was crucial his side bounced back with a victory away to Glasgow next Saturday as the title race begins to heat up.
"At half-time we stressed the need to do the simple things well but the bounce of the ball didn't go our way for their two tries. They were soft tries to give away," said Best.
"It was difficult to get back into the game once they got that lead playing into the difficult conditions.
"Next week is our last league game before the European Cup returns so it gives us the opportunity to go over to Glasgow and put ourselves back into the driving seat again."