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Ulster fly to top spot with win over Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium

Guinness PRO12 rugby

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 17/09/2016

Going over: Louis Ludik takes to the air to bag a try in Ulster’s victory over the Scarlets
Going over: Louis Ludik takes to the air to bag a try in Ulster’s victory over the Scarlets

Ulster moved to the top of the PRO12 table with a 19-8 win over Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium but that didn't stop Director of Rugby Les Kiss demanding more from his side in the weeks and months ahead.

A try in each half, from Louis Ludik and Iain Henderson, was enough for the hosts in a game that didn't always live up to its billing with Kiss looking for more of a clinical edge from his squad.

He said: "It's good to have three wins out of three and to be top, but there are areas where we know we can improve."

"We recognise in the dressing room that we left some points out there," lamented Kiss after a game that was closer than it should have been until Henderson's last-gasp score.

"We were even saying at half-time that 11-0 was too close. That kept Scarlets alive and it made for a difficult game in the second half. We probably let the ref into the game a little bit too.

"A pass here or there that was a little more accurate and we'd have had the tries we needed but that's the nature of the beast.

"Overall, to keep them without tries for as long as we did, until that late in the game, and then to come back and get the points, I thought was pretty strong."

While Ulster are three from three to begin their campaign for the first time since 2012, they have yet to produce a complete 80-minute performance but the Aussie believes his side are not far away from clicking into gear.

"I'm not concerned," he said. "We're aware of it, the players were aware of it but the biggest thing is we're not letting teams in for easy points during these periods. It's important that we're always still a difficult, stoic team to play against."

In recent seasons, the province have begun the season in an inconsistent fashion only to find their form in the latter months.

Such was the case last year when a patchy start left them too much to do to avoid an away semi-final come May, and another loss to Leinster in the RDS.

Kiss is encouraged to be the early pacesetters this time.

"We hope that this start gives us breathing room at the end of the season, although it's only three games," he said. "To be three out of three, for sure, is great. We're top at the moment but you'd expect to see Ospreys beat Treviso and jump ahead of us but it's a good place to be."

The second half was a war of attrition with Ulster losing Pete Browne, Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall to injury. Worryingly, Marshall left after a blow to his upper body and head.

"Luke had a head injury so we'll watch that closely," said Kiss. "Stu has a really badly broken nose and a lot of blood so we'll look at that. Pete Browne just had a stinger. Both locks were going well at the time."

Having played three teams with only one win from seven games combined to date, Kiss is expecting a greater challenge next week away to Glasgow Warriors, who were beaten by Cardiff at the Arms Park last night.

"It'll be interesting because Glasgow were beaten and they'll be smarting. The players haven't touched it yet but as coaches we've been watching. We're going to need to be really disciplined," he added.

"If you're looking for the top attacking team in the tournament the last few years, they're right among them. We need to be right on top of our game."

Belfast Telegraph

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