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Darren Cave out to ease the misery of Ulster's title drought

By Michael Sadlier

Published 21/05/2015

Try that: Darren Cave insists that Glasgow Warriors will see the real strength of Ulster when they meet again at Scotstoun PRESSEYE
Try that: Darren Cave insists that Glasgow Warriors will see the real strength of Ulster when they meet again at Scotstoun PRESSEYE

That rather uncomfortable statistic is stalking the early part of the conversation. All 10 PRO12 semi-finals which have so far been contested since this format of play-offs came into being, back in 2010, have seen the host side progress to the league's final day.

And with Ulster back in Scotstoun tomorrow night, something just has to be done about all this. So, when confronted with this rather unpalatable fact, Darren Cave fixes it with a gaze before emptying it in a scything tackle.

"There is one (an away PRO12 semi-final win) due to happen," says the man about to make his 160th Ulster appearance tomorrow night ahead of deploying a fairly powerful statement.

"I've won in Montpellier, I've won in Castres, I've won in Leinster, I've won in Munster, I've won in Leicester, I've won in Bath, I've even won before in Glasgow. So why not (now)?"

Cave, of course, makes his point well and Ulster have achieved all of the above at one time or another. And yet there is still a much more gruelling look to the task ahead of them when they return to Scotstoun for the second time in six days.

We're not talking now about any regulation season game either in Europe or the PRO12, this is a semi-final and a one-off encounter with added poignancy for Ulster as the winner will be heading to the Kingspan Stadium for Saturday week's battle to take ownership of the trophy.

And despite having tasted success over Munster in a knockout game in recent years - the day Craig Gilroy slalomed his way through a thicket of red shirts during 2012's unforgettable Heineken Cup quarter-final triumph at Thomond Park - banking such high calibre wins while on the road have been thin on the ground.

It prompts another response from 28-year-old Cave which serves as a reminder of the depths of disappointment which have become all too familiar to Ulster as they have gone about trying to capture a first trophy since 2006.

"I've lost three quarter-finals, two semi-finals and two finals in my time," the highly experienced centre trots out.

"You remember those seven a bit more," he adds referring to the same number of notable away wins he had so readily volunteered earlier.

Yes, but back to those reverses. Neither their Heineken Cup quarter-final conquerors Northampton Saints (once), Saracens (twice) and then Leinster who accounted for two losing PRO12 semis and then a European Cup final in 2012 and the PRO12 final of two years ago are in any way involved with what faces Ulster now.

"We've struggled with Leinster," Cave readily admits. "Over those seven defeats, four of them were Leinster's doing. But they're gone and there's no point worrying about them," he states before directly addressing the semi in Glasgow.

"I don't think the pressure is on us and I think the way the results went at the weekend proved the decision to rest the bodies that didn't train was the right one.

"We're going there (Scotstoun, where Glasgow haven't lost a PRO12 game since the end of 2013) feeling we are playing the best team in the league away from home so it's theirs to lose."

Yes, but surely the close proximity of making it to the Kingspan final has to be preying on his mind no matter how much talking up of the Warriors is thrown out there.

"It's in the back of your mind," he admits. "It's probably not the excitement of playing in one, it's the fear of having one in Belfast and not being in it.

"If we needed any more motivation, that's probably it. But, having said that, the way we're approaching this game, where the final actually is, is absolutely irrelevant," Cave insists.

Having not actually made mention of Ulster's epic 25-6 European tanking of Northampton Saints the season before last at Franklin's Gardens, Cave then references it in relation to the difficulty in playing sides back-to-back and winning on both occasions. Of course it's an annual event in Europe's pool games, but is a rare thing indeed in the PRO12.

"It's tough to beat teams two weeks in a row," he states.

"Obviously the Northampton one springs to mind. We beat them over there with a bonus point and then lost at home.

"Playing the same team two weeks in a row (in the PRO12) is a bit bizarre but if you watch the game back, we didn't really throw a punch," Cave adds of last Saturday's performance by a much-altered Ulster side while further fuelling the theory that the Warriors are going to find things radically different to what occurred several days ago.

"That all adds a wee bit extra if there was any room to add anything extra to this one," Cave says with a grin.

Having plenty of voluble support at Scotstoun is also another factor which could play into the visitors' hands as they attempt to undermine any further continuance of the PRO12's home semi-final stat.

"The more of them (the supporters) we get over there, the noisier it's going to be and we'll be giving them something to shout about a bit more this week," says Cave.

"We intend to make it worth their while."

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