Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Ravenhill revenge a huge factor for French

Ulster in action against Stade Francais
Ulster in action against Stade Francais

Stade Francais coach Ewen McKenzie revealed he gave an emotional history lesson to his players just before kick-off to ensure they brought their four-match losing streak at Ravenhill to an abrupt end.

The Parisian giants had previously lost on all four visits to the south-east Belfast venue but showed cool ruthlessness in ending their losing streak with a comprehensive 26-10 mauling of Matt Williams’ side on Saturday.

Tries by Guillaume Bousses and Dimitri Szarzewski, drop-goals by Juan Martin Hernandez (2) and Lionel Beauxis, who also landed a penalty and two conversions, left Ulster’s Heineken Cup dreams in tatters.

And McKenzie, who is desperate to end Stade’s long wait for European Cup glory having been bridesmaids in 2001 and 2005, admitted he used their previous record in Belfast to fire up his players.

“I was a huge motivating factor for us,” said the former Wallaby prop who won the World Cup in 1991.

“I was confronted with the history of the contests between the two sides everywhere I turned. So when I got the players out on the field before kick-off, I told them ‘We are going to change history today’. And we did.

“I like to challenge the players when I can and I like to tell them that we can buck the system, you don’t have to accept it. History shouldn’t affect the game but I used to motivate the guys.

“When I was at the New South Wales Waratahs we hadn’t beaten Queensland for 10 years so we went and beat them three years in a row and nobody talked about it after that.

“And the negative history for us is finished at Ravenhill because it isn’t an interesting statistic anymore. It is still alive in Paris, because Ulster haven’t beaten us there so our job is to make sure that piece of history doesn’t change.”

Williams had no complaints, insisting he had been proud of his side’s efforts.

“When you are a coach you can only ask your players to give everything,” said Williams.

“And when I walked into that changing room at full-time there was blood on most jerseys, there were dislocated fingers, there were concussions, there were collision injuries and you saw that there were still going up to the last minute.

“But we also have to say we played an incredible side. The drop-goals out there were incredible and you just have to take your hat off and say that is incredible skill. We were 16-0 down and we had hardly made a mistake.

“We kept fighting and fighting and had great spells of pressure just before and just after half-time but we didn’t come away with any points and you can’t afford to do that against a great side like Stade. They took their chances and we didn’t.”

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