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Neil Doak is calling for Ulster men to show clinical edge

By Michael Sadlier

Published 29/04/2016

While Les Kiss sits at the other end of the room surrounded by a tight circle of assembled media, Neil Doak is not so challenged for space as he provides his own take on where Ulster currently find themselves.

After a season of holding the fort prior to Kiss' arrival, Doak hardly seems to mind the absence of having to front up on these occasions yet when it comes to plotting Leinster's downfall - a task injury-hit Ulster must achieve to remain in control of their play-off hopes - there is no better man to discuss the pressing task at hand.

And though Ulster's record against the current PRO12 leaders isn't anything to instil much optimism - they have lost six of their last seven meetings with the southern province - the fact remains that Doak oversaw last April's rare victory when Leinster were last at the Kingspan.

Back then, Ulster battled back from 10-0 down to impressively score 26 unanswered points with, ironically enough, the victory copper-fastening their place in the top four while defeat for Leinster - who were in Belfast a mere five days after narrowly losing their European semi-final at Toulon - saw them frozen out of the play-offs.

"This time, they're chasing top two and we have to make sure we cement a top four position. We know it's probably going to be quite difficult for us to get a home play-off," said head coach Doak of fourth-placed Ulster's highly fragile-looking hopes of a top two finish and one more outing at the Kingspan.

"With just two games to go, and everything at stake for a lot of teams, you can't afford mishaps and we've got to make sure we just do the job this weekend.

"They're a good side and we've had opportunities against them (in the past) but just haven't been clinical. Clinical is the answer and small opportunities just have to be taken."

But there is more to it than that with Ulster's discipline also being highlighted by Doak as having to be as watertight as possible with Jonathan Sexton and Ian Madigan around.

With his remit largely about attack, the former Ulster scrum-half was pretty satisfied with the seven-try outcome against Zebre but hopes of replicating that are not being entertained against the league's tightest defence.

"Attack is the hardest part of this game and the defences are so loaded now that there's not a lot of space," said Doak. "It's hard to break down confrontational defences and when there's no space you have to be pragmatic at times and play a little territory and build from deeper.

"Leinster are a point in case, but they know us and we know them and it's going to be a ding-dong battle," he added of the expected match-ups with Paddy Jackson's expected clash with Sexton trumping them all.

"But we've just got to get on with it and focus on winning."

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