Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Doak has fears over Ulster's lack of cutting edge

Rallying call: Neil Doak is demanding that Ulster lift their game and start taking their chances ahead of a run of big games

The mood is obviously more upbeat than last week, but assistant coach Neil Doak is still emphasising the pressing need for Ulster to raise their game.

Even though Rory Best is back in the mix for Friday night's Ravenhill clash with Treviso, Craig Gilroy could return to the starting line-up, in a position yet to be confirmed, while Tommy Bowe and Stuart Olding may also be involved, Doak is talking about how Ulster's failure to nail down clear scoring chances could, if repeated, do serious damage to the squad's aim of getting a substantial number of wins behind them.

Though the two tries in last Saturday's first win of the PRO12 campaign at Connacht were pleasing, with Paddy Jackson's scintillating second half touch down essentially securing the victory.

The number of other opportunities which were missed, both in Galway and at Ravenhill the week before in the agonising defeat to Glasgow, are clearly frustrating for Doak who as backs coach is responsible for Ulster's attacking game.

"In the second half (against Connacht) we did well and won our set-piece and got a bit of territory, but there were a couple of chances we really should have finished off and we should have scored more points," said Doak.

"The Dragons game wasn't pretty (Ulster's opening defeat) but in the Glasgow game we created four opportunities but unfortunately didn't finish them off."

"The opportunities that we've created over the last couple of weeks need to be put away now.

"There are no second chances when you play against the teams we're going to be playing in the next few weeks," Doak states with more than a passing nod towards the onset of the Heineken Cup in a fortnight's time.

Between now and the European visit of Leicester Tigers to Ravenhill, Ulster have to negotiate a way past Treviso – who also won for the first time last week and drew on their previous visit to Ravenhill – and then get a result at the Ospreys.

Failure to be clinical, in either game, will severely punish Mark Anscombe's squad as this season's massive European challenge comes into view.

To illustrate his point Doak brings up a statistic from a review of last season with a total which Ulster can ill afford to surpass in they want to stay in the serious business of winning games.

"Last year I felt it was a bit of an Achilles heel in that we created numerous chances. Back then we had 14 chances in the opposition's 22 that we left begging," he said.

"If we could finish those off it then gives you that little bit of a buffer. We know we can't win by 30 or 40 points each week, but you've got to ensure you take as many points as you can."

The ever improving Italians – who Ulster also play in their Heineken Cup pool double-header in December –will arrive buoyed by a great win over Munster last week.

Doak knows that Ulster will have to be much sharper and consistent than the way they played in Galway.

"It's now going to be a pretty physical month with Treviso, the Ospreys and the two Europeans (Ulster travel to play Montpellier after hosting the Tigers) so we need to be firing on all cylinders," said Doak.

"It's a big month for us, but we're still creating opportunities, now it's just about being clinical."

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