Mark Anscombe pride in the true grit of Ulster Rugby warriors
Ulster Rugby 29-19 Munster
Published 04/01/2014 | 01:30
The smile on the face of coach Mark Anscombe said it all.
Having seen his side struggle to beat Zebre and then capitulate to Leinster in their previous two outings he needed a performance to get Ulster's RaboDirect PRO12 challenge back on track – and in preparation for next week's Heineken Cup date with Montpellier.
Last night his players rose to the challenge by beating PRO12 leaders, Munster, 29-19, thanks in no small measure to the sublime kicking of scrum-half Ruan Pienaar who took over from Paddy Jackson and vindicated the coach's bold decision by landing seven out of eight off the tee.
Admitting that Ulster had failed to front up and let themselves down six days earlier at the RDS, Anscombe said: "The quality of the guys and the beauty of playing at home and a few new guys bouncing back adds a bit of confidence to the group.
"I know Munster had a couple of guys out but that was a pretty formidable forward pack and I thought the way we played, particularly in that first half, to get up to 20-0 was pretty impressive.
"We allowed them to score a try on half-time which gave them a little bit of confidence and ascendancy to go into the second half and they got that line-out maul going which is pretty impressive and a hard thing to stop.
"We did a good enough job on it and we did stop the last one which was most important and then had an outstanding scrum on our goal-line to come away with the points, which is pleasing.
"Particularly in the first half I was really impressed with the way we used the ball.
"I think we found holes, we looked after the ball, we made good decisions and we played at the right end of the park.
"I thought there was some good football. We missed a couple of tries and we scored a couple so I thought there was some really good football played in that first half."
Open-side flanker Chris Henry, who played for the first time in seven weeks after a hamstring tear, put in an hour-plus shift and performed heroically in the battle of the back rows.
"Delighted to get through 66 minutes, I think it was," he said. "At that stage I would like to have stayed on but obviously it was the right thing to do to come off and Sean (Doyle) did very well when he came on.
"I think being out for seven weeks you miss it so much. Mentally it's very hard to take when you see the team doing well.
"To bounce back from last week was the main thing, I suppose. There was a lot of pressure on the team and I thought tonight the boys really stood up."
And hinting at the forthcoming Six Nations series he said: "A trial game like that there's a lot of match-ups.
"Overall one to 15 the boys should be happy enough."