Plenty of positives for Les Kiss despite a slow start
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss was frustrated by his side’s first-half performance against Treviso on Saturday despite the province ultimately securing a bonus-point 32-13 win at the Stadio Monigo.
The opening half saw Ulster stutter out of the blocks to only lead 6-3 at the break before tries from Sean Reidy, Darren Cave, Rory Scholes and the fit-again Stuart Olding ensured a maximum haul and lifted the side to fifth in the PRO12 table with a game in hand.
“We didn’t play to plan really in the first-half,” said Kiss.
“Obviously we had a few changes but I would have expected a little bit more.
“At half-time, we had a few words about it and the boys were very honest about what they hadn’t delivered.
“In the second-half, we didn’t start the way we would have liked either but we gradually grew into the game and got a few good rolling mauls going.
“We put them under pressure, got good field position and put the points on. It’s nice to get five points.”
Ulster take on Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games, knowing that victory will take them to the top of the PRO12 standings.
For Kiss, a better start this week is imperative.
“I would hope that we can take that rhythm from the second-half and put it into our first-half next week,” he said.
“We’re in a position where we’ve taken five points and we have pushed ourselves back into contention for the top four.
“It’s nice to have that but we need to back it up next week.”
While Kiss could not hide his annoyance over the first-half, the Ulster win at a ground where they have laboured in recent seasons was made all the sweeter by the return to action of Stuart Olding.
The centre had missed the last 10 months of action with the second serious cruciate ligament injury of his young career but looked bright throughout before capping the showing with the crucial fourth try.
"I thought he had some good touches," reflected Kiss.
"I wouldn't say it's near his best yet but he had some really strong touches.
"He just about sneaked through a couple of times to open up space and it's nice to see him get a feel and a rhythm in the game.
"We had him at 10 there for the last 20 minutes and he did okay, with a few things to tidy up, but for his first game back at this level, to play 80 minutes, was really good.
"We're really happy with that."
The victory not only saw the return of Olding but also debuts for academy players Lorcan Dow and Jacob Stockdale.
Dow, the former Ireland under-20's back-rower who originally came through the Exiles system, was particularly involved in a 20 minute cameo, and Kiss was encouraged by the performances of his bench.
"They did very well, it was really pleasing," he said of the new caps.
"The bench, I thought all of them did exceptionally well.
"Bronson Ross carried really well a couple of times and held up the scrum with Andy Warwick. John Andrew threw a nice line-out on our own five metre line.
"Lorcan Dow carried well and Pete Browne was busy. David Shanahan had a few nice touches and Luke Marshall obviously has class as well.
"The second-half we needed to respond and we did."