Belfast Telegraph

This sets us up for big Euro test, says chief

By Jonathan bradley

ULSTER'S new director of rugby Les Kiss insisted he never doubted the character of his squad after they claimed a first away win in seven months against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade yesterday.

The 19-12 Pro12 league victory was sealed after a determined defensive stand to see out the game, and despite two yellow cards, with Paul Marshall scoring the only try of the contest in the 50th minute.

Ahead of the Champions Cup clash with Oyonnax this weekend, Kiss (right) hailed the spirit of the win.

"I think I had no doubt about the character of this team but each game is another chance to define that," said the 50-year-old Australian.

"The guys did that today."

"We had one debutant in Stevie Mulholland, a first start of the season for Kyle McCall, Sam Arnold playing out of position on the wing, that says a lot of our youth," Kiss added.

"We had to battle hard. We knew it would be tough and the game delivered that. Dragons are an unbelievably tough unit here. It's the type of character and toughness you want in your game.

"It's going to be a totally different environment next week in the European Champions Cup in Oyonnax but in terms of preparation, not only for next week but for the season, to have the young guys exposed to what's needed gives us something going forward."

While the game could hardly be described as fluid, and Ulster trailed 9-0 after the first quarter of action, Kiss admitted that his team talk to inspire the second-half turnaround was hardly a reading of the riot act.

"I don't think you're going to get perfection," he said. "Dragons adapted well and the boys managed to hang in there (during the first-half).

"I think in the second-half we knew if we could get a bit of possession at pace then we could put some scores on.

"Even late in the first half, we had a bit of momentum and you could see that we were getting on top and starting to create a few chances.

"We thought if we were better in our ball-carrying and our cleanouts then we could get something."

The late defensive stand, in a game that was plagued by wind and rain, was especially pleasing for Kiss after the side gave up five tries in defeat to Munster last time out.

"Obviously the conditions added another dimension in. We knew it was going to be tough.

"Everyone knows to come here you have to get through a lot of mental challenges because it can be intimidating.

"We chose to go in the wind first-half, we didn't manage it as well as we would have liked and we gave them a bit of a purple patch, but the defence held out well and it held extremely well in the back end of the game, so we're pleased with the return of that side of our game."

Belfast Telegraph

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