Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Ulster boss Anscombe has job on his hands

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe

It's a new week and time to focus on the challenge of Treviso on Friday night but, even so, the fallout from the trip to Glasgow has been hard to shake off.

In many ways this was a considerable deterioration from the Ospreys defeat and means that should Ulster beat the Italians at Ravenhill in four days time, which is pretty much an absolute must, then what remains of Mark Anscombe's squad will only have achieved a 50% success rate from their four games played over the Six Nations.

It's clearly not a good return and ensures that Ulster are now no longer just as comfortable when it comes to nailing down that essential home semi-final though, realistically, of their six remaining games only the away clash with Leinster looks like a banana skin.

Even so, Anscombe now has to deal with the fact that his charges are not only failing to perform, a trait that has been stalking them for a while, but they are now beginning to lose as well which can quickly have an impact on overall belief.

First up, though, he needs to wrestle with his selection for Friday with who plays out half likely to prove a particular bugbear for the Kiwi along with the fundamental need to get the balance right in the back row and presumably not deploy any more left-field looking selections in his starting line-up.

Whatever he opts to do – and he hasn't got too much wriggle room here anyway – this is now where the coach will earn his corn by pulling the squad together and refocusing them towards playing with some much-needed consistency and accuracy.

And as if things weren't bad enough already the normally reliable Ulster scrum, even though it was again strong at Scotstoun with John Afoa milling the inept Ofa Fainga'anuku, saw a dreadful mix-up at the base lead to ex-Ulster player Tommy Seymour's first half try while, later on, an attacking put-in near the Warriors' line was bewilderingly lost.

All told, Anscombe is a far from happy man after last Friday's performance, regardless of the ultimate value of the losing bonus point.

"We got a bonus point out of it and we'll certainly take that, but the concern is not too much in the losing but how we're not putting the opposition under enough pressure or asking enough questions of them," he said.

"A couple of soft tries, a charge-down an error coming from the base of the scrum – they should never have been scored and it was pretty feeble and we allowed them into the game."

He was also understandably aggrieved at witnessing a clear scoring opportunity being lost when Neil Walsh found Robbie Diack with the South African scoring off a rare overlap only to be called back for Walsh's forward pass.

"Our attack lacked any punch or purpose and then when we got our chance we threw a silly forward pass for what should have been a try. There's not a whole lot to be positive about," Anscombe added, before addressing the challenge that will be presented by Treviso.

"Look, they nearly beat us last time so unless we get ourselves together we know that they're not coming here to lie down and we've got to be more urgent in what we do."

Ulster now have to pick up the pieces and fast.

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