Belfast Telegraph

Les Kiss faith is repaid in Ulster late show against Dragons

By Jonathan Bradley

While unhappy with aspects of his team's performance on Friday night, Ulster's director of rugby Les Kiss maintained he never lost hope that his team would claw their way back against Dragons and claim a win that took them to the top of the Pro12 table.

The province took their first lead of the game as late as the 78th minute - with Paddy Jackson stroking over the second of two penalty attempts having bounced the first agonisingly against the bar - but Kiss's belief that his side would win didn't waver, even in the face of a 13-man Welsh defence.

"I don't think I ever put my head down and thought we haven't got this," he reflected after a 17-15 win in the first of three consecutive home games.

"I thought there was still the capacity for us to forge into a place where we could win the game, without a doubt."

One area of particular concern for a man who served as Ireland's defence coach before coming to Kingspan was his side's tackling, especially after allowing Ashton Hewitt to break from inside his own half to create the game's opening try.

With last year's league champions Glasgow Warriors next up in Belfast on Friday, the Australian knows his side must be better if they are to maintain their table-topping position.

"Our first up tackles weren't as good as they usually are," he said."I know Joe Barakat will have a field day in the video review. The truth is, we let them get momentum through offloads and tackles that didn't have enough sting in them.

"We're a little disappointed with that and we know that we need to be better next week against Glasgow. They haven't had the best of seasons but they're a good team. You don't win the Pro12 if you aren't."

Despite Jackson being returned from Ireland camp to feature for his province when he no doubt will have anticipated playing some part against Wales in the Aviva Stadium yesterday, the young out-half's captain Rob Herring had no doubts about the goal-kicker's temperament as he approached the decisive penalty.

"To be fair to Jacko he stepped up and didn't even question it," said Herring, who himself, along with centre Stuart McCloskey, was released from Carton House mid-week.

"He went straight for the ball and wanted to take the kick. He knew he had it in him.

"He was probably disappointed about the last one but he's got a great temperament and he stepped up and slotted it well."

Like Kiss, Herring was quick to acknowledge the contest had far from gone to plan but stressed that the key to victory was maintaining composure, even after failing to cross the whitewash with Matthew Screech and Ben White in the bin.

"In the first-half, to be fair to Dragons they came at us and had good ball retention," he said.

"We were maybe a bit soft in defence, too many dropped tackles.

"We dealt with it, to be three points down at half-time, and we came out in the second-half with a bit more intensity and took it from there.

"Everyone just said stay calm, I think there was still 15 minutes to play (after Dragons were restored to 15).

"We knew we had it in us, we were starting to get a bit of momentum in the game and we knew if we kept them under pressure then we could come away with points.

"Two more home games coming up, we're top of table now.

"People can catch us next week but hopefully we can keep building on it and stay in the top two."

Belfast Telegraph

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