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Les Kiss hits back at Stephen Ferris over his ‘no heart’ Ulster blast

By Michael Sadlier

Les Kiss has defended his players after Ulster legend Stephen Ferris slated the squad following a dire first half performance during their 22-7 defeat at Leinster on New Year’s Eve’s.

The former Ireland and Lions player, who was working at the game as a TV pundit, hit out at the side’s poor showing in the opening 40 minutes at the RDS when Ulster trailed 17-0 which quickly became 22-0 after the restart.

Ferris didn’t pull his punches, saying Ulster had “no heart, no passion, nobody wanting to get out the line.”

“We need to wake up,” continued a frustrated Ferris.

Ulster went on to concede three tries and, afterwards, Kiss made it known that he didn’t agree with the former flanker’s assessment of that opening half.

“That’s Stephen’s opinion,” said Kiss. “There’s no way I believe that.

“We were physical and they just got through us at a couple of soft moments. Leinster are a good team here.

“Stephen can have his opinion. That’s fine.”

Ulster have another forbidding-looking encounter away at the Scarlets on Friday and have dropped two places in the table to sixth, but with a game in hand, after the west Wales side beat Cardiff Blues yesterday.

Saturday, though, proved another tough one to take and Les Kiss couldn't hide that as his injury-hit squad begin to prepare for Friday's clash at Parc y Scarlets.

And though he should have big guns Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson back for the trip to Wales, worrying injuries picked up by Rob Herring, Roger Wilson and Rodney Ah You will eat further into the squad's resources as they seek a critical result at another less than rewarding venue.

On Saturday, they had travelled probably more in hope than genuine belief that a fully-armed Leinster would allow them an opportunity to ponder an unlikely victory at the RDS, but this still wasn't meant to be how it should have panned out.

"We were error ridden in the first half," Kiss admitted.

Ulster were actually fortunate to only lose by 22-7 and it was hard to paper over the cracks as they shipped their fourth defeat in the PRO12 season over the course of 11 league games.

"We did come here believing we could do better," Kiss said in the wake of Saturday's defeat, which was a truly downbeat way to see out 2016.

"We believed we could come down here to do a job but we knew it would be tough against a loaded Leinster at home. They'll be disappointed they didn't get a bonus point just as we're disappointed we didn't get any closer," added Kiss.

"But I think each of the tries you could say we should have stopped. It was a funny game, the teams that played into the wind controlled the half so it was funny in that respect."

Things could have been different had Ruan Pienaar not missed two first half penalties and had Tommy Bowe not he dropped the ball with a try on."

Ulster's first half display was the clincher though and the reason Ferris got so steamed up. Surrendering 17 points, which became 22 straight after the new half began, meant defeat was inevitable.

They did manage to get themselves some territory and possession in the second half - Charles Piutau got a late consolation try - but they never looked clinical enough with Pienaar looking less than comfortable while playing most of the game at out-half.

"They tried to go at him at times but he was physical when he needed to be," said Kiss.

It also didn't help that Ulster failed to score during Jack McGrath's sin-binning three minutes before the hour. "That's part of it," Kiss agreed. "We panicked at times I thought."

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