Belfast Telegraph

Big guns must start firing to rescue Ulster’s season

By Ciaran Donaghy

Three consecutive defeats will give Ulster plenty to think over as the Magners League takes a two week break to accommodate the autumn internationals.

Ulster find themselves nine points adrift of leaders Munster after only seven games following their latest reversal which was their first home defeat of the season.

Once again it won't be the result that will have the alarm bells ringing. There’s no shame in losing to the leaders but it was the manner of the defeat as Ulster's second half syndrome continued and it was another night when the big names failed to deliver against a Munster side missing 21 front line players.

Last season Ulster won four from six games before losing at Munster on Halloween weekend. They then lost seven, won two and drew one of their remaining league fixtures — everybody at Ravenhill will be hoping that doesn't happen this year.

Ulster's second half performances in their last three games have not been good enough. In the Heineken Cup game at Biarritz the scores were 3-3 at half-time before Ulster conceded 32 points and four tries after the break.

In Edinburgh Brian McLaughlin's men led 10-8 after 40 minutes and should have been further in front before going down 21-6. Against Munster they lead 6-3 at the break before Tony McGahan's side hit back with 13 unanswered points in the second half to deny Ulster a bonus point.

The second half form must be addressed before Ulster resume their campaign away to the Cardiff Blues on November 21.

Munster was another game that Ulster's high profile signing Ruan Pienaar will want to forget, he kicked two from four attempts at goal although one of his misses was a simple penalty that would have tied the scores at 9-9 going into the closing stages. He also threw a poor pass at out-half Ian Humphreys which lead to Ian Dineen's try.

Pienaar wasn't alone in a below par performance and there should be a lot of soul searching on the training paddock.

It wasn't all gloom and doom however with the performances of young Ballynahinch duo Paddy McAllister and Nevin Spence catching the eye.

Apart from the first scrum McAllister held his own against John Hayes and further evidence that he wasn't getting it too tough in the scrum was his work-rate in the loose.

He carried a lot of ball and tackled well around the fringes, he has already played for Ireland at Under-19 and Under-20 level and he is certainly one for the future.

Spence was a constant threat to the Munster defence all night with his speed and intelligent line running.

On a night when Ulster's big names failed to fire it was the two 20-year-olds that caught the eye.

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