Belfast Telegraph

Tommy Bowe puts faith in experience of Ulster's big stars

By Michael Sadlier

It's weeks like these where all that has gone before can make all the difference. A back-to-back game with Glasgow awaits with the victor this time making their way to Saturday week's final in Belfast.

It's all in the melting pot tonight and no better time for experienced players to come to the fore.

Enter Tommy Bowe. Already the holder of three PRO12 winners' medals - one with Ulster back in 2006 and two from his time with the Ospreys - he is in pretty chipper form and little wonder after three tries from his last four games since returning to Ulster with another Six Nations gong to add to his collection.

The soon to be married 31-year-old is on form, both on and off the pitch, and his message is one delivered from someone who knows how to win key games and, crucially, titles.

"We know that when we're on the money we can take on any team in this league and beat them home or away," the Ireland and British and Irish Lions star states.

And should half a chance come his way tonight then the highly decorated winger can finish it off in the style which he showed recently when bursting clear to score a typically memorable try against Munster.

And though he accepts that the odds look stacked against Ulster breaking the mould by becoming the first side to win an away PRO12 semi-final, he counters the previous history with his own take on things.

"It's now knockout stage rugby and it is an incredible stat to think that no team has ever won an away play-off," he says before adding, "but teams have gone away in the final and won."

And Bowe should know. In the first year of this format, in 2010, he was on the Ospreys side which defeated Leinster at the RDS to lift the trophy with Bowe also attaching himself to the scoresheet.

And the Welsh side did it again against the same opposition, and in the same place, two years later though Bowe was unable to play, and sign off from his time with the Swansea-based club, due to having to go under the knife before that season's end.

"It's a massive challenge for us and an opportunity to make history in being the first team to do that (beat a semi-final host)," says the winger.

Despite Glasgow's obvious power at their fortress home, Bowe believes that a combination of the back-to-back nature of this clash, along with the fact that Ulster are much closer to full strength after last Saturday's 32-10 defeat - with the late bonus point setting up this semi-final - will both play key factors in tonight's outcome.

"You don't get to play back-to-back against many teams these days," says Bowe.

"Yes you do it once a year in Europe and it always makes the second match a tasty affair," he adds while more than hinting that this will be a very different Ulster performance from the one which collapsed in the latter stages at Scotstoun six days ago.

"And with it being a knockout game, it has all that extra spice. As a team we are fully up for it," he states while also mentioning that, this time, he plans to avoid having to act as an emergency number eight which was briefly the case last week following on from the situation created by Andrew Warwick's yellow card.

"They (Glasgow) had to really go for it last weekend and it is a six-day turnaround for a lot of them who would have played most of the game," says Bowe over what may be about to hit the Warriors tonight.

"For a lot of our guys, who were maybe nursing a few knocks and bruises who missed out on last weekend, we've had two good training sessions and the boys are now fresh and looking forward to it."

And with the mileage which has been accumulated already by himself and other key members of the squad, Bowe sounds assured that, this time, Ulster can do something special.

"I do think we are two fairly even matched teams, but we've experience in the side with the likes of Ruan (Pienaar), Rory (Best) and myself around, players that have been part of these situations before and know how to win," he says

At the same time, though, the international also accepts that being underdogs is no bad thing at all from Ulster's point of view.

"We're going over there with no pressure on us this weekend," Bowe maintains.

People are expecting Glasgow to go on and win the league now, but we're going there confident and knowing we have a pretty much a full strength side.

"We're hugely looking forward to it and we know we have the home final and that is the incentive we have in front of us."

That and making everyone take notice of Ulster's intentions to finally seize some silverware.

Belfast Telegraph


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