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My players have the mindset to land trophies despite another setback, says Kiss

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 21/05/2016

Focused: Ulster chief Les Kiss watches the action last night
Focused: Ulster chief Les Kiss watches the action last night
Under pressure: Ulster’s Luke Marshall is challenged by Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald at the RDS last night

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss said he is sure his team have the ability to win the big games even after the Pro12 semi-final loss to Leinster in the RDS.

A third consecutive semi-final defeat, and the fifth knock-out loss to Leinster in six years, came after the home side took a stranglehold of the game in the second half - but the Australian says he has seen plenty of character during his time at Kingspan Stadium.

"For me to be in the dressing room for six or seven months has been insightful," he said.

"We had a lot of good discussions about the mindset.

"We've just got to find a way to take that next step further when it comes to these big ones.

"That's probably the main area I've got to make sure we all work together on.

"That's not to say there is a weakness there, but we've to understand how to use that strength they have."

With new signings, and plenty of young talent in the squad, Kiss added that he was not unduly worried that Ulster's record in knockout rugby would continue to dog the squad moving forward.

"There's enough young guys not to be scarred too heavily (by the history)," he said.

"I think there's a belief in them that they can step into the place we need to.

"The challenge is to put a framework around our preparation.

"I also believe that other parts of our game will continue to grow.

"Paddy Jackson has done a great job and I think we'll improve in that area."

Kiss saw his side fight back from 13-0 down to trail by only two points at half-time but was left to rue the period after half-time when Ulster didn't take advantage of the momentum.

"We knew that they would be closer to that but that just shows what home (advantage) does for you," Kiss said.

"We didn't fire the same shots for us to win it. You have to take your hat off to them.

"They got to a 13-0 lead but we still thought it was do-able to get back into it and we showed that but we just didn't make that start of the second-half pay," Kiss said.

"We had a bit of momentum. We weren't as organised or moving as well as we normally do but you have to credit them," he added.

"It happens in games when that pressure is on and then suddenly the points are on the other side.

"Unfortunately that gave them an edge for the rest of the game."

One thing Kiss says must be a focus is avoiding the mid-season defeats that ultimately meant last night's game was played in Dublin and not Belfast.

"If there's something we'll look at, the Munster game was critical for us," Kiss said.

"That understanding that you don't let things slip away.

"Even a point away to Cardiff would have made a difference.

"You can tell that home was a comfort for Leinster."

Golfing superstar and Ulster supporter Rory McIlroy watched the match at the RDS with his good pal, One Direction star and Leinster fan Niall Horan.

McIlroy was taking a break from the Irish Open at the K Club where he is bang in contention to record his first victory of the year.

As for Ulster, the players can go and enjoy their summer break before they resume the search for a first trophy since 2006.

Although this was a disappointing end to the campaign, there have been signs throughout the season that things just might be on the up.

Belfast Telegraph

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