Emphatic Ulster send a message to their Christmas rivals
It will be a happy Christmas for the Ulster side after they overcame interpro rivals Connacht at Kingspan Stadium last night, scoring a try in each half to get the better of the reigning champions by a score of 23-7.
Stuart McCloskey and Clive Ross crossed for the hosts, with Paddy Jackson perfect off the tee, to move the province back into the play-off spots in the Guinness PRO12.
“A win was the priority and we delivered that,” said Director of Rugby Les Kiss. “There are certainly things we need to do better.
“In those conditions, and the way that Connacht can play the game, it was a pretty good result.
“To win that game, with our game in hand, it was important for us. We’ve got to go through Christmas, enjoy it, and then front up to get ready for a Leinster side that are going to be super strong.
Kiss was especially pleased with the effort of his forward pack who, with a much changed unit, got the upper hand at key moments in the set-piece while Iain Henderson was man-of-the-match for the second Kingspan contest in a row.
"We had to mix it up and were just finding some options around the second row, how our back five, as well as the tight-five, could work," he said.
"I thought we got a good return.
"The scrum got better and the lineout worked well, we stole some of their ball with Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell in there.
"It was a good return.
"We just needed to shift a few things. Hendy was up to speed and can go between six and lock.
"I think he can play anywhere in that forward pack and he would deliver for you to be honest."
Kiss also refuted claims by Clermont coach Franck Azema that Rory Best has avoided an EPCR citing because of his status in European rugby.
The French side had complained that the Irish skipper should have received a similar punishment to their own prop Etienne Falgoux, who was handed a seven week ban for making contact with Luke Marshall's eye in the Stade Marcel Michelin last weekend.
"We have a real feeling of injustice because last week we asked the Disciplinary Commission on a similar gesture of Rory Best, the Ulster captain who visibly touched the eye area of Dato (Davit Zirakashvili)," said Azema.
Kiss, however, said the claims had little merit.
"I think they made the citing commissioner aware of it, he had a look at it and Rory was cleared," he said.
"Rory isn't that sort of player.
"It wasn't about his status, it just wasn't something that was answerable.
"That's how the citing commissioner saw it."