Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Ulster Rugby: Now go out and seal last eight clash at Ravenhill

Over the line: Ulster's Sean Doyle celebrates Saturday's fifth try with team-mate Robbie Diack

With Europe being such unforgiving territory, there is just no margin for error, or for flat performances.

If you want to win your pool and, most importantly, be in possession of a home quarter-final then this competition is all about momentum and accumulating wins.

Indeed, Ulster know this only too well and as Mark Anscombe alluded to afterwards, they have hopefully learnt their lesson from last year when they failed to back up all the hype of beating Northampton Saints away by succumbing to defeat at home.

So, in the wake of this seven-try filleting of Benetton Treviso, there was absolutely no sense of any job being done. On the contrary, Anscombe made sure he told anyone who was listening that good results just have to be backed up and that Saturday will probably see a different Treviso, determined to avoid anything close to another 48-0 humiliation.

And with it being long-serving coach Franco Smith's final game in charge, Anscombe continued to issue warning signs just in case Ulster might feel a tad complacent.

For all that, though, it was difficult not to get swept up in what was a clinical display from an injury-hit Ulster side, though Leicester Tigers are still lurking two points behind after their bonus win over Montpellier

This tub-thumping result brought them Ulster their third consecutive victory in this seasons' Heineken Cup group games and, as such, has furthered their cause at the top of Pool five and brought much hope that, maybe this time, they can go one better than last season and actually secure a home quarter-final next April.

Maybe, but we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here which is never a good omen. Ten points from two games with Treviso – who are without a win at the base of the pool and have even found winning in the PRO12 to be a less than rewarding experience – is an achievable outcome, though few sides have found them a pushover out in northern Italy which is highly significant.

Ulster will fly out on Friday on the back of considerable hype but it's hard to accept that the Italians will be as abject as they were last Saturday.

Not that Ulster's performance wasn't worthy of considerable promotion, it was a dynamic effort with tries that, well, were right out of the top drawer.

Yes, they delivered against a side that seem to be heading south but there was enough precision on show to suggest that Ulster might just have some traction behind them for this season's Heineken Cup.

Darren Cave is an obvious starting point. His lead-up to the game was anything but what he would have envisaged but when the heat was on, he showed that, yes, he can take his game to a level which demands attention.

His inside pass helped carve out Ulster's first try from Paddy Jackson and, again, his realisation that he wasn't crossing the whitewash for the bonus point try led to another offload to put Dan Tuohy away.

The official statistics showed that the Italians somehow had more possession and territory but the key was that when Ulster had front-foot ball they showed how you go finishing as a pose to just recycling without much result.

Central to this notion was what came out of Luke Marshall's first try – Ulster's second – just after the first quarter.

Treviso were churning away with ball in hand but their carriers were hit with such venom by Sean Doyle and Robbie Diack – with Doyle unsurprisingly topping Ulster's tackle count with 18 and Diack just two behind – that, ultimately, a ball was thrown to no-one and Ulster gratefully hoovered up possession.

Some sides may have then opted to kick for territory, but not this one. They sensed space out wide and the ball was given air to the right, allowing Jared Payne make a break before he gave Luke Marshall an opportunity which a player of his quality was unlikely to ignore.

Naturally, they had a wobbly moment and it arrived early in the second half when Treviso caught Ulster flat-footed.

The net result was the yellow card for Luke Marshall just when the Italians looked set to score. But, instead of yielding after being reduced to 14 men, the Ravenhill faithful were treated to Tuohy's score and then Doyle's spectacular swallow-dive which, courtesy of Paddy Jackson's fourth conversion, made things 36-0.

The try-scorers will understandably take the plaudits – Andrew Trimble's excellent finish and Luke Marshall completed the rout – but so much of the hard graft was done up front where John Afoa (left, celebrating his try), Rob Herring and Tom Court were dominant to allow Ulster get their hands on quality ball.

Yes, Anscombe is right to dampen down expectation but, if Ulster can manage to arrive in Italy in the same frame of mind, surely there is another substantial win on the cards.

Meanwhile, Ulster Ravens lost 41-22 to Ayr in their British and Irish Cup game to ship their second defeat in Pool Six.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre