Belfast Telegraph

Ulster have got to step it up to keep run going, says Craig Gilroy

By Michael Sadlier

With their third straight home game up next, Craig Gilroy knows that all the expectation is on Ulster achieving a hat-trick of victories as the current PRO12 leaders aim to keep setting the pace.

So, no better time to keep things going in the right direction than when fourth-placed Scarlets trot out at the Kingspan for a highly unusual Sunday game in Belfast.

And Gilroy, who picked up the man of the match award last Friday in Ulster's narrow 13-10 win over Glasgow Warriors, is calling for Ulster to up their game for the visit of the West Wales side who beat the province at Parc y Scarlets back in September.

"The Scarlets are an awkward team," the 24-year-old, likely to make his 125th Ulster appearance at the weekend, said of Sunday's opponents.

"We definitely can't let them in (in the same way both Glasgow and the Dragons ran Ulster very close) and this game will probably be an even bigger challenge.

"But it's good to get the wins and it's great to get these home games as the Scarlets will be our third straight game here.

"We really need to use it to our advantage but we also mustn't take it for granted that we'll win."

With leaders Ulster and fourth-placed Scarlets now separated by just a single point, the need to keep bagging positive outcomes is becoming ever more pressing with eight rounds of regulation games remaining for Les Kiss' men.

And Gilroy wants Ulster to ensure they keep progressing in the right direction by putting together some convincing victories rather than the edgy efforts which have seen them just about win their last two games.

"It's good to be top (of the league) and we won't take it for granted," the six-times capped Ireland international said after playing a notable role in last Friday's three-point result over struggling Glasgow.

"We know from the last few seasons how you can fall short so, right now, we're top and we want to stay there. I think we'll get better."

Agreeing that Ulster showed a lack of accuracy and more impatience than was necessary against last season's PRO12 champions - the Scots, of course, put Ulster out in the semi-final - Gilroy called for greater consistency come Sunday.

"We did a lot of work to get down there (into Glasgow's 22) and just couldn't finish it off, but we know we can score and we know we have the personnel to do it too," he added.

"We just need to find that bit of consistency, especially against the bigger teams.

"We're working hard and the results are coming but still we know we can be better.

"There was a better energy and feel to this (win). It was more enjoyable but still bittersweet letting them in at the end (for an 80th minute try) but we can't beat ourselves up too much."

He was certainly very evident in running back ball and, though he didn't add to his six tries this season, Gilroy made good ground with those familiar dancing feet, with one such burst helping create the only try of the game for Callum Black to touch down for the first time on his 100th appearance.

"I got my hands on the ball a bit which was good and the last wee while I haven't been seeing much ball," Gilroy stated.

"I think that's probably the biggest criticism (over Ulster's performance), when it comes to finishing off opportunities.

"We just didn't put them away which you really need to do to stay on top and go on to do better things.

"Having said that, we're still winning games which is a big positive."

Yes, winning ugly isn't exactly uplifting but better that than tripping up. And if anyone is going to light things up for Ulster, and help bag some vital try bonuses, then it's likely to be Gilroy.

Belfast Telegraph

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