Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Matt: it was no way to finish

Ulster coach Matt Williams

As a former Leinster coach, Matt Williams was thrilled to bits with their stunning Heineken Cup semi-final win over Munster.

But the Ulster coach makes no attempt to hide his disgust at the manner in which the second semi-final between Leicester and Cardiff was settled.

It went to penalties after extra time failed to separate the sides, and Williams wasn’t impressed.

“Here we have one of the greatest completions in rugby and what do they do — they settle it by penalties.

“I found the whole sorry episode a shambles and demeaning and I genuinely felt for the players involved. There has to be a better and more satisfactory way of settling such an important match and in my book the administrators have a lot to answer for.

“You could say they were guilty of bringing the game into disrepute and not too many people would disagree,” he said.

Going back to his days as Leinster coach, Williams has all too painful memories of having teams ambushed in the Sportsground, in Galway, where Ulster face Connacht on Friday night.

“It’s one of those games where you have to fight your corner time and time again.

“They mightn’t be a successful or well known province, but they are a very proud people and they would love nothing better than to send us packing.

“We’ll take every advantage we can get so we’re pretty happy with the weather forecast and hopefully there will be no gale blowing in off the Atlantic.

“Here we are going down there as underdogs which is unusual for us, but they deserve to be in that situation having beaten both Munster and Leinster at the same venue,” he added.

Reflecting on an Ulster season that is fast drawing to a close, Williams agrees it’s been mixed just as he predicted.

And yet during the season Ulster were always able to beat the top sides only to struggle with teams from the bottom half of the table.

“We’re currently fifth and if we can maintain that it’s a position I would have taken when the season began.

“When I first came to Ravenhill we were last but everyone involved in the whole set up has played a significant role in getting us up the table.

“Making that rate of progress in just 18 months is a decent achievement so if we could maintain greater consistency next season we would be very close to making the top four and the play-offs — and that would be a huge step for Ulster rugby.”

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