My brilliant Ulster heroes must step up again, demands Les Kiss
Delighted Ulster Rugby chief Les Kiss has hailed Saturday’s epic Champions Cup win over French heavy hitters Clermont as one of the best results of his Kingspan reign.
Now the coach has challenged his side to dig deep and stage a repeat performance in the return contest in the Stade Marcel-Michelin in Auvergne on Sunday.
In a rugby exhibition rated the most exciting seen in Belfast in many years, the province scored five tries against the Top 14 leaders, with the 39-32 triumph breathing new life into their European campaign.. and now they must do it all over again in France this weekend.
Against a side packed with international talent, Ulster were one of the PRO12 teams who made light of the supposed gap between their league and those of the English and French over the weekend, with Kiss understandably proud of his side’s efforts at the final whistle.
“This result is up there with the best,” the Australian said of his days heading the Ulster coaching team. “It’s in the top three.
“Without a doubt you are coming up against a massive team in a lot of respects, the form side in the Top 14.
“They came with a team that was absolutely loaded.
“We knew they had yielded a lot of tries in all competitions and we knew, if we could create some quick ball, we could expose some areas.
“I thought the boys did really well in that respect.”
Despite Saturday's superb victory, Kiss has told his team they must be better next week in France if they are to complete an unlikely double.
Win in the Auvergne on Sunday, and Ulster would take a huge step towards returning to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014.
"I think it is a good dressing room we have because we understand that to get the job done over there we are going to have to do some things better," he said.
"From a performance perspective, there were a lot of good things in terms of the outcome and the performance.
"Parts of the process were a little bit disappointing. We let Wesley Fofana have too much room in that first half and Peceli Yato, that type of momentum we gave them in the first-half to stay in the game was disappointing.
"But the second-half we addressed it and we came out and really turned up in that area a lot better.
"It was pleasing to say the least that the boys were prepared to back themselves and their skillsets and that told in the end. It was really good."
With Irish internationals back after their November stint in green, and the recent returns of Chris Henry, Stuart McCloskey and Wiehahn Herbst from injury, Saturday saw Ulster's strongest line-up of the season.
Kiss was especially pleased by how his senior players led the charge against the French visitors.
"In the second-half I thought the decision making by Rory (Best), Paddy (Jackson), Ruan (Pienaar), and the boys to keep putting pressure on them, I really thought we were making good strong decisions.
"The boys had to back themselves and they did."