Ulster only halfway there, warns Adam D’Arcy
Ulster full-back Adam D’Arcy stepped forward, raised his hand and admitted his part in gifting Bath their second try at Ravenhill last Saturday afternoon.
But the 24-year-old Irish-qualified Australian, who was given a one-year contract following an impressive debut in the pre-season friendly against Leeds Carnegie, isn’t dwelling on that slip.
As with each of the other Ulster players he knows the Bath job is only half complete so he is keen to see it finished tomorrow at The Rec in order to set up a crucial home date with Biarritz Olympique next month.
D’Arcy played against the Pool 4 leaders at Parcs des Sports Aguiléra on October 17, entering the fray from the bench after 25 minutes when Simon Danielli retired hurt.
He knows the French side did not see the best of Ulster that day so come January he would like to put that right.
First things first, though, for he realises that the importance of that fixture will hinge on the outcome of tomorrow’s West Country clash.
With injury sidelining Jamie Smith earlier in the season, as well as having forced Bryn Cunningham to announce his retirement, D’Arcy has taken his chances.
Now, having started in each of their past six fixtures, currently he is Ulster’s first-choice full-back.
“I’ve just got to try and keep playing consistently. I made a mistake that led to a try so I wasn’t happy overall with my performance last weekend,” D’Arcy admits.
“But I’m feeling comfortable in the squad. I’m enjoying my time here and relishing the chance to play Heineken Cup alongside as well as against international players.
“I hadn’t played professional rugby before coming over here so each week I’m learning new things and different things.
“I’m playing against guys who have played international rugby — something I hadn’t done before — so that poses different challenges to what I’d known previously.
“But I’m enjoying it thoroughly. You’re only going to get better if you play against the best so this is helping me a lot.”
The thing D’Arcy has noticed most about the Heineken Cup is the pace and intensity of that competition.
“The Magners League is intense in itself but I think in the Heineken Cup everything moves up a level. The crowd is louder, the game’s a bit faster and it’s even more physical. There’s just a whole lot more at stake so as a player these are the big games you want to be part of.”
He was surprised at how little Bath kicked last weekend, though he feels their reluctance to do so may have been borne of their respect for Ulster’s counter-attack.
“With the sun setting pretty low I was expecting a few high balls, especially in the first half. But we only got a couple — certainly not as many as I’d thought they’d put up,” D’Arcy says.
“That might change this week, of course, depending on the weather. But we’re expecting them to run a bit more this weekend.
“They’ll probably have (Shontayne) Hape back in the centre and if they do I’d imagine they’ll try to attack more on the outside channel so we’ve got to be ready for that as well.”
It’s all in keeping with what he said earlier —greater variety, more challenges, a lot more to work out.
“In the last 10 minutes on Saturday they really did stretch us so we’re expecting a bit more of the same this time,” he continues.
“If it wasn’t for our pretty strong defensive line and some very good tackles by individual players it could have been a different story.
“So we’ve been working on that this week and hopefully, if they do try to do that, we can stop them.”
He also reveals that while he was “very pleased afterwards”, there had been other emotions at play, too.
“A mixture of feelings really. We were relieved. We were excited with the win. But we weren’t taking that over the top.
“The job’s only half done so we know that if we don’t put in a performance when we go over there then last week really means nothing.”
He realises that Bath will be motivated, too — for a variety of reasons. Try three successive Heineken Cup defeats at Ulster’s hands plus the realisation that if that becomes four their involvement will be over for another year.
To that add their professional pride and their belief that it’s not quite a lost cause at this stage.
For as D’Arcy warns: “With Aironi beating Biarritz, Bath are back in it with everything to play for as well, so we know they’re going to be pretty fired up.”