Ulster find it hard to celebrate
That the mood in Ulster’s dressing room following Saturday night’s Magners League victory over Munster was unusually quiet and reserved said everything about the players’ view of what they had achieved.
There was an acceptance that while they had won, they did not play particularly well. And there was recognition of their failure to ram home a 15-0 advantage or to have scored a further point beyond the 22nd minute mark.
There was acknowledgement, too, that their opponents had played most of the attractive rugby.
All of that said, however, Ulster outscored their rivals by two tries to one.
“Sometimes good sides win bad,” was replacement flanker Thomas Anderson’s post-match assessment, delivered with a broad smile.
No denying that, or that this occasion’s vanquished are themselves past-masters of grinding out results and winning ugly.
Ulster beat Munster by doing what Saturday night’s losers have done to others for a very long time – keeping going, refusing to bow to pressure and bravely putting bodies on the line, sometimes literally, to gain victory.
Its importance to Ulster’s season cannot be overstated, a point underlined by two-try hero Simon Danielli who, looking ahead to Friday night’s home date with Ospreys, said: “If we get another win we’re back up at the right end of the table. If we can come out positive from the next few weeks then when the breaks for the Six Nations come we’ll be well placed.”
And highlighting the standards Ulster’s players now demand of themselves Danielli added: “You should see the dressing room. We’ve just won the game and normally that would be cause for great celebration, but there aren’t too many smiles in there right now.
“We’re disappointed with the manner of the win. We know that we could have played better.”
But while he conceded Ulster’s performance had not been as good as they would have liked, he refused to accept the victory was, in any way, undermined by the unavailability of a number of Munster’s best players.
“Any side Munster put out will have lots of quality,” he reasoned.
Coach Brian McLaughlin admitted to being “really, really pleased” whilst agreeing that Ulster had won despite not having played well.
“Last week in Leinster we played exceptionally well and got nothing out of it. Tonight, we had one smashing try out of a line-out, one great piece of opportunism from Simon Danielli and a penalty which took us 15-0 up. But we didn’t kick on from that, which was very disappointing.
“But the great thing is that we hung in there and although we did give away a soft score – we’re very disappointed with that – we defended well. Certainly, in the last 10 minutes, we knuckled down under ferocious pressure and we came away with a win.
“From that point of view I’m very, very happy that we have the four points in the bag.
“Earlier in the season, if we’d played the way we did tonight, we wouldn’t have got out of jail and we wouldn’t have come away with the points.”