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Ulster ace Darren Cave warns travel sickness could ruin hopes

By Jonathan Bradley

Darren Cave has called on Ulster to get the better of their travel sickness if they are to get their stuttering season back on track.

And with a trip to Treviso to come this Sunday afternoon he wants to banish the away-day blues immediately.

Last Saturday's loss to Irish rivals Leinster at the RDS was their sixth consecutive reverse away from the Kingspan Stadium and the centre knows that the troubles outside of Belfast have seriously undermined a season that now sees them sitting outside of the play-off positions in the Pro12.

On their away travails, the 27-year-old said: "It's something that we've spoken about as a team recently.

"One thing that's improved at Ulster in the past four or five years as much as anything is our away form. This year we've been off the money away from home.

"I think we've only won once or twice in the league (once, against Cardiff in September) and we lost our two European away games.

"If you want to win trophies that's not good enough and that's not what this team is about. I think over the past few years we've shown that we're a good team no matter where we're playing so that's something that's in the back of our minds that we want to put right."

A host of experienced players have been out for significant amounts of time this season, and continue to be, while seasoned campaigners such as Johann Muller, John Afoa, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace are no longer there to be called upon.

Cave - who is likely to make his 150th appearance for the province this month - still feels the struggles are as much about those who are on the field as those who aren't.

Refusing to blame the lengthy injury list or high-profile departures for Ulster's inability to drag themselves over the line in less than familiar confines, he added: "In tight games, experienced players are handy because they've won more games and they know how to win games, but every team has injuries and we've had our fair share in some key positions.

"We've also had some key players fit the whole way through as well so we can't blame everything on that.

"I think when you add it together with the few players we lost it's been a rocky season so far."

The eight-times capped Ireland international found the most recent loss particularly galling, coming as it did after what had been an encouraging opening quarter against Matt O'Connor's men.

"It was a tough one to take," he admitted.

"Obviously with them scoring on the last play of the game, it probably flattered them.

"While I don't think we've given an 80 minute performance, I don't think we've played that badly in the last couple of games.

"We caused Connacht a lot of problems and put them under a lot of pressure, but to think that they nearly got away with a draw or a win wasn't a fair reflection on the game.

"I certainly don't think that Leinster deserved to win by 24-11, but I suppose there's no point complaining about it now.

As pointed out by Cave, there was much to like about Ulster's showing on Saturday - both himself and full-back Peter Nelson impressed while the scrum and lineout were encouragingly solid - but the big moments went Leinster's way.

Dan Tuohy was shown a yellow card just before the turn after the team had been warned about their conduct at the breakdown, while Ian Madigan gave the home side a 10-point lead thanks to a try scored when Ulster switched off defensively for a penalty that looked set to be knocked into the corner.

"We need to capitalise when we're playing well and we're in control," said Cave.

"When it comes to how exactly you do that, if it wasn't easier said than done then obviously it would be done already.

"To go in 9-6 down at half-time and to have someone in the sin bin for nine more minutes, I thought was a very unfair reflection on our play.

"Credit to Leinster, they weathered the storm and then came back to win by 10 or 15.

"The Madigan try really did change things and although we did well to get a score of our own, the problem is when you let Leinster get eight points ahead of you, they control the game really well. We struggled to get out of our own half and that's why I sort of felt it fizzled out in the end."

If Ulster's season is to avoid the same fate, the players know that, starting on Sunday, improvements are required when they play outside of BT6.

Belfast Telegraph

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