Ulster aim for another win in Bath
Captain Johann Muller hopes that last weekend’s fightback against Bath will stand Ulster in good stead when the sides meet on Saturday at The Rec for the second of their back-to-back dates.
Despite trailing 15-3 early in the second quarter, Ulster kept the faith and adhered to their game plan.
They replied with 10 unanswered points, as a result of which they went into the interval just 15-13 in arrears. And in the second half they proceeded to outscore the Aviva Premiership team by nine points to three.
“When we were 15-3 down we just said, ‘Look, we’re playing all the rugby; we’ve got 80 per cent of the ball’.
“We knew that if we stuck to our guns, played the way we did in those first 10 minutes and made sure we didn’t give them soft tries we’d get back into the game,” the former Springboks skipper said.
That required commitment and spirit on the part of the players, however.
“Obviously it took quite a bit of character from the whole side to get back from that.
“They could have said, ‘Look, we’re 15-3 down and we’re not going to catch a good side like Bath with that margin’.
“But the guys were composed and there was lots of positive chat. It was great to see that they just stuck to their guns and we pulled it through at the end,” Muller enthused.
Of course, having joined Ulster from Sharks during the summer, Muller was not involved in the euphoria of last season’s victory in Bath.
Conversely, nor did he experience the disappointment which followed 24 hours later when results elsewhere saw Ulster fail to make the Amlin Cup cut.
Coach Brian McLaughlin did come through that, however, so he will have marked his stand-in captain’s card as to the utter dejection Ulster felt last January.
“We ended up in despair after our Bath game last year,” he said.
And while McLaughlin did not subject Muller to a full breakdown of the knock-on effect on Ulster’s 2009/10 season, the big lock is fully aware of what happened in the aftermath of that post-European heartache.
Broken Ulster returned to the Magners League and failed to win
any of their next six matches, drawing the first and then losing five in a row.
While the big South African missed out on all of that, he has caught up to the point where now he is in tandem with the Ulster coach who has a perfect played three, won three Heineken Cup record against Saturday’s hosts.
Both know what will be required if Ulster are to keep that impressive winning sequence against Bath going this weekend.
“We’ve been there last year and we know what it’s like to win in Bath,” McLaughlin reminded the media members who descended on Ulster’s Newforge camp.
“We also know how difficult it is to win there, so we’re under no illusions.”
With Muller in tow, the coach spelt out what Ulster must do in
order to remain in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.
“We’ll have to make sure that we’re accurate in what we do and when we get those opportunities it’s vitally important that we cross the white (goal) line,” McLaughlin said matter-of-factly.