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Les Kiss keeps faith but admits there's much room for improvement

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 06/02/2016

Force of nature: Ulster's Stuart McCloskey on the attack
Force of nature: Ulster's Stuart McCloskey on the attack

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss said he never doubted that Paddy Jackson could put his international disappointment to one side when facing up to the Dragons.

The out-half, who was not selected as part of Ireland's 23-man squad to face Wales in the Six Nations tomorrow afternoon, was the hero for his province as he kicked a last-gasp penalty to beat the Welsh region and send Ulster to the top of the Pro12 table.

"It's a big boost for him," said Kiss of his in-form number 10.

"When you're at that level of play you can put those situations to the side and still focus on what you're paid to do.

"He delivered for us and it was nice to see him out there for sure."

While the nature of the 17-15 win left Kiss searching for answers, the Australian admitted that, with his squad so depleted by international selection and injury, he was just pleased to escape the Kingspan with the four points required to leapfrog the quartet of sides who started the night above them.

"I look at what we are now, nine points from two games and on top of the ladder, we're extremely happy with that," he said. "This time of year you have to put these things together.

"My disappointment to one side, I thought the Dragons were pretty good.

"They had wonderful carry lines, we were under pressure and scrambled a lot, and they kept coming all day. We couldn't get traction and we're on the back foot all day.

"Sometimes you have to tough through that.

"We had four guys go off with a head knock, maybe not all as serious as the others.

"We're on top of the ladder and hopefully we learn a few lessons from that first-half."

Ulster had two tries chalked off, the latter coming in the second-half with the Dragons down to 13 thanks to a pair of yellow cards.

After a lengthy conversation between the TMO and referee Nigel Owens, the try was ruled out for a Stuart McCloskey knock-on long before Roger Wilson crossed in the corner.

Had the try been awarded, Kiss believes his side may have even claimed all five points.

"That was a disappointing period for us without a doubt," he said of their time with a numerical advantage," he said.

"We'll reflect and look at it. I don't know if it was a bit of white line fever but we just didn't play how you should.

"We just made it difficult for ourselves but I never stopped thinking we'd get the money.

"At one point there I thought we'd be getting a bonus point try," he said.

"If we got that (Wilson's try) then the boys were saying they'd have been confident with the rest of the game.

"I don't know how many phases it was but you can't change what's happened," he added.

"There were a few decisions we had to work through that we didn't think were the best but you have to fight your way through that.

"I won't be painting over the cracks, there's a few things we need to be getting in front of for sure but the boys will put their hands up."

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