Magners League: Ulster ready to give it their all
Despite their impressive record in competitive fixtures against Italian sides, there is little danger of Ulster underestimating the threat Benetton Treviso will pose tonight.
Played six, won six is a very impressive Ulster statistic in head-to-heads against clubs from the land of the Azzurri.
But this, in the vernacular, is a whole new ball game.
Unlike fellow-Italians, Aironi — whom Ulster have beaten twice this season — Benetton Treviso certainly have not looked out of their depth in what is their inaugural Magners League campaign.
Currently they are 8th of the 12 runners with a 50/50 mix of results, four wins and four defeats — exactly the same as defending champions Ospreys, and Edinburgh who beat them last weekend at Murrayfield.
That means Treviso are ahead of Glasgow Warriors, Connacht, Newport Gwent Dragons and Aironi.
They have scored a dozen tries, converting 10 of those. And, interestingly, they have dropped more goals — four — than any of the other 11 clubs in the competition.
On the down side, their disciplinary record is not good, witness seven yellow cards thus far. But having seen the ease with which some of those can be picked up — Ulster full-back Adam D’Arcy’s sin binning last weekend was a case of very harsh treatment — that should not be taken as implying that they are overly-physical.
Ulster will also be well aware that tonight Treviso are aiming for a hat-trick of home wins against Irish provinces. Leinster went down 29-13 at Stadio Monigo on September 18 and Connacht were beaten 24-17 at the same venue on October 30.
And with the scalps of Welsh pair Scarlets — currently second, remember — and Newport Gwent Dragons in the kills-bag, too, Treviso have shown that they are more than able to hold their own, especially on home soil.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin made the point forcibly when he said: “We’re under no illusions; they have only lost twice at home — Leicester beat them in Europe and Cardiff beat them in the Magners (League) — so they’re no slouches.
“It’s going to be tough, no doubt about that. They’re exceptionally good at home and they’re a very proud team at home.
“We know exactly what we’re going into, so we’ve got to go there with all guns blazing.”
Loosehead Bryan Young, whose 122 Ulster caps include home and away appearances against Benetton Treviso in the 2005/06 Heineken Cup, agrees wholeheartedly with the coach’s assessment.
Young, whose wardrobe includes eight Irish caps, said: “We’re going in having just won a big match in Cardiff, which is great, but this is another massive challenge for us.
“What we need now is another huge performance in Treviso so that we continue to build.
“We finished that (Cardiff) game so well that everybody is just looking forward to getting back on |the pitch against Treviso and taking that energy with them.
“Treviso’s line-out and maul are very good. They’re very abrasive, physical guys and it’s a very intimidating place to go. What we’ve got to do is negate those threats and take the control we know we have in our team and impose that away from home and be clinical.”
While prop forwards tend not to be advocates of flowing, expansive, running rugby, 29-year-old Young is a notable exception. That’s exactly the sort of football he wants to see Ulster play. He talks in terms of “liberation”.
“We’ve got such good players, such good strike runners in the backs, that’s the way we should |be playing,” he said.
“Maybe we were getting a bit too patternised. But hey, let’s really have a go. Just let the backs really attack them and punch holes in defences.
“We’re good enough to do that and confidence will grow if we continue to play the way we did in the second half against Cardiff.”
He takes huge encouragement from the character Ulster showed last weekend by picking themselves up following three successive defeats to win after losing their captain and having trailed at half-time.
“There are lots of guys in the squad now who have been through that sort of experience before and that was a big factor. Now there’s just such a belief; the boys are really working hard for each other,” he continued.
“Maybe we still need to work a wee bit smarter, but for me the thing that really counted was the amount of control we showed on the pitch against Cardiff and, as a result of that, the fact that we took our chances. We need more of that against Treviso.”