Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Court aims to make Scots suffer

Tom Court takes the game to Castres at Ravenhill in Ulster's big Heineken Cup opener
Tom Court takes the game to Castres at Ravenhill in Ulster's big Heineken Cup opener

It was one of those tricky evenings at the office which stayed with him into this week ahead of tonight’s massive clash with Glasgow.

Of course Tom Court was delighted to get last Friday’s win, and was even more relieved at the last-gasp maximum-pointer against Castres at Ravenhill.

But when it came to examining his own performance, the yellow card brandished his way in the 58th minute by English referee Andrew Small was the game-changer for the 31-year-old Ulster prop.

He looked distinctly unhappy at being binned for supposedly pulling down a Castres maul and then didn’t return to the action once his 10 minutes was up.

The card had been an accumulation of incidents against him and, well, he took the binning but then had to sit and stew on it while watching the remainder of the game.

Not where Court wanted to be and you can be sure the situation was more than mentioned by Mark Anscombe in the post-match analysis.

“I was very disappointed not to be on the pitch, but I guess everyone has a bad night now and again,” says the man who made his 100th appearance for Ulster the last time they met Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12’s first weekend of action back in late August.

“The scrums had gone okay for me and around the pitch and everything had been all right, but it (in the bin) was definitely, definitely not where I wanted to be.

“I was both annoyed and frustrated (at the yellow card, pictured). One, annoyed with myself and, two, I thought it was a little bit harsh as well either for the offence or for the accumulation but, you know, that’s the way he (the referee) sees it.

“To be honest I think a few of us were maybe a little bit too worked up and then we just got lulled into the pace of the game and we were just sort of cruising,” he adds.

Some of Ulster’s set-piece play certainly wasn’t where it should have been and Court has stressed the clear need for the forwards to bring more consistency and accuracy to tomorrow’s Heineken Cup clash at Glasgow’s new Scotstoun ground.

“The quality of ball wasn’t as good as it should have been at the scrum and at the lineout.

“Our lineout takes were down to about 75 per cent when it’s been up at 85 per cent most of the matches.

“We’ve definitely been looking at how we can eradicate that for this week,” Court said after Ulster lost three lineouts against Castres.

As Court knows only too well, the Warriors will provide a much more dynamic challenge than the one produced by Castres in the opening round of Pool Four games.

“We threw a lot of ball away and turned a lot over (against Castres) so we definitely can’t afford to do that this week as Glasgow play it differently and will make us pay a lot more for our mistakes.

“They’re very dangerous from broken play and they’ll run it out from anywhere.

“They caught Northampton off guard at the start of their game there (taking a 15-0 lead before losing 24-15) and we can’t really afford to be giving a team like Glasgow a start like that,” he says.

Familiarity with their Scottish opponents may well work to the visiting side’s advantage, as Ulster go in search of an all-important away win, but Court also emphasises that Glasgow are not only highly ambitious but also have a bit of form behind them.

“They might have surprised Northampton a bit but, look, they made the PRO12 semi-finals last season and, this season, they’ve won their last four PRO12 games so they’re very consistent,” he says.

Consistency is now what Court is also looking for and after missing out on Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand due to a broken thumb he sustained in May’s Heineken Cup final (the now operated on thumb is functioning better than it was before the incident, he says) he is eager to be in the mix again in the forthcoming autumn internationals.

“Yeah, I want to be putting my hand up and stay involved with the Irish set up as long as possible,” the 29 times international states.

“I can’t afford to have too many poor games and let it slip too much otherwise there will be guys nudging ahead.”

First, though, his focus is on Ulster and on bouncing back to win his own personal battle against the annoyance of what happened to him last Friday.

“It’s just really a matter of staying consistent and working hard,” Court says.

He’s now hoping for a more satisfying night at work.

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