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Ulster fans forced players to 'stand taller' against Scarlets, says Henry

 

By Jonathan Bradley

After beating the league champion Scarlets 27-20 on Friday night, Ulster's stand-in captain Chris Henry believes his side must now turn Kingspan Stadium into a fortress once again.

The Welsh region arrived in Belfast having lost only two of their last 23 domestic games since the corresponding fixture last season but, after a pulsating contest and dramatic finish capped off by John Andrew's late try, it was the hosts who carried their unbeaten record into round four.

Since Saracens came to a revamped and soon to be renamed stadium in the spring of 2014 for a Heineken Cup quarter-final, Ulster have lost eight times on their home patch in competitive games, while also drawing two further contests.

But it was their most recent home reverse, an otherwise incidental pre-season friendly defeat to Wasps, that Henry says stung the squad into action.

"We've talked about that Wasps game because it was tough to take," he admitted.

"We want to make sure that any team who comes to play here are going to have a tough night."

In that regard, the crowd certainly played their part on Friday.

From the moment the 12,700 in attendance spontaneously broke into a standing ovation after a video tribute to the late Nevin Spence, the noise in the stadium was more the din of old.

"It means an awful lot," said Henry of the crowd. "Whenever the noise came at the end, and the fans were standing up, I haven't heard it as loud as that in a long, long time.

"You've got to put your body on the line to give the fans something to shout about and to have that noise and that roar means so much to the players.

"It gets you up that bit quicker and makes you stand that bit taller. It was awesome to hear but we know we have to give the fans something to cheer about. That's what makes this place a force and somewhere we're so lucky to play in."

Deflecting the notion that Ulster came out with a point to prove on Friday after Scarlets came in as favourites for the win, the Malone man was especially pleased to see the province display enough character to twice come from behind in the final quarter.

"We knew that they are the best team at the moment," he said.

"Boys got stuck in, rolled up their sleeves, worked really hard for each other and that is going to win the tough games. Sometimes it is not the pretty stuff, it is about getting the job done and we did that.

"It is always nice to go out there and win but in past seasons when we have done well it's usually that theme, you are not always going to play your best, but you grind it out. It is a fantastic feeling.

"That was a quality Scarlets side we played and for us to come off on the right side of the result, it is great for our confidence, we will use that and hopefully move on forward."

If there was one concern for Ulster coming from the weekend though, it was the sight of Rory Best still on crutches as he watched from the sideline.

The Ulster and Ireland captain is awaiting the results of a scan on a hamstring injury.

"We're very lucky that this team has more leaders than we used to have," added Henry.

"It's bad news about Rory but captaining is something I really enjoy and I'm really proud to do it.

"This is a great team which leads itself so it's not too difficult at the moment."

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