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Les Kiss is urging Ulster men to turn up the heat on rivals

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 18/01/2016

On the rise: Ulster’s Andrew Trimble beats Saracens star
Marcelo Bosch to the ball on Saturday
On the rise: Ulster’s Andrew Trimble beats Saracens star Marcelo Bosch to the ball on Saturday

With Ulster's Champions Cup fate no longer in their own hands after Saturday's 33-17 reverse to Saracens, Director of Rugby Les Kiss was left to rue the lack of a losing bonus point that saw control slip from their grasp.

The defeat, in which Ulster failed to take a bonus point of any kind for the fourth time in Pool One, means the province enter the final weekend of group action ranked fifth of five second-placed teams.

With only three progressing to the quarter-finals, Ulster know that even if they beat Oyonnax handsomely with four tries on Saturday (1pm kick-off), it may not be enough.

"The truth is that we have to get five points and we also have to wait for other results we don't control," said Kiss.

"It's not the ideal position to be in but this is a weird competition that every year does something different.

"We'll see what happens but we didn't look after the things that we could have and we have to make sure we do that now this week to put pressure on the rest of the competition.

"We're first on the slate this week so if we do our job then other people have to react to that and do their job to keep us out of there. But it's not ideal, that's for sure."

The Australian cut a frustrated figure after the contest, feeling his side failed to maintain the standards that had them leading the game as half-time neared.

A pair of lost line-outs, both stolen by Michael Rhodes, undermined their efforts to carry an advantage into the break with Kiss displeased by the response after the turn.

"We've got great fight, some great qualities, but we need to work smarter when elements don't go our way," he said.

"We had two set-pieces that went awry, gave them a chance and they put points on.

"When you're set-piece is working well it's great to play on the front foot. When we got it right you could see the space we created but when it's not where you'd like it you have to be a bit more savvy.

"It didn't give us a chance to get into it but there were other times when we were a bit frivolous. Ultimately we had a chance to at least get one point and didn't manage it.

"If we had done the right things in the first-half a bit longer it could have pushed the game but we just gave them that chance. We just didn't respond."

The idea that he had just been beaten by what at present looks like the best team in Europe offered little comfort.

"At the beginning of this whole thing I said I believed the one team that challenges Toulon will be Saracens," said Kiss. "Each week your belief that that's the case becomes stronger.

"They do their job for 80 minutes. You've got to be able to play against that. We had minutes that were good but we didn't have 80 of them.

"We've to take that hurt and transition that into a reaction (against Oyonnax)."

Always going to be keeping one eye on matters elsewhere prior to taking the field against Saracens, Ulster had received mixed news from the earlier games.

Ospreys' win over Clermont increased the chances that both will progress from Pool 2 but Munster's victory over Stade Francais kept the Parisians within touching distance.

The failure to finish within seven of Sarries, however, left Ulster's European campaign relying heavily on others.

They were seconds away from receiving a timely boost in the Cote d'Azur yesterday afternoon but a last-gasp try from Drew Mitchell saw Toulon to victory over Wasps.

Having seemed set to only take a losing bonus point, the three-time European champions would have entered the last round of games, when they will play Bath at the Rec, level on points with Ulster's 13 if not for their Australian wing's late intervention.

As it is, they sit on 16 ahead of a trip to the already-eliminated Premiership side.

Wasps' losing bonus puts them on 15 with Ulster left hoping that neighbours Leinster can upset Dai Young's men on Saturday.

It was a similar story at Franklin's Gardens.

Northampton's last-minute win over PRO12 champions Glasgow gives them 14 points going into their clash next week against a Scarlets side who have been abject in Europe this year.

Belfast Telegraph

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