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Ulster still have lots to do to reach play-offs, says Les Kiss

Ulster v Treviso, Guinness Pro12 League: Kingspan Stadium, Friday, 7.35pm

By Jonathan Bradley

It started and finished as expected, with the visitors crossing the opposition line at will, but what occurred in between when Ulster travelled to Zebre last weekend left Director of Rugby Les Kiss with food for thought.

Ultimately, scoring six tries - twice during both the game's opening and closing minutes - and bringing a third consecutive bonus point back to Belfast, it was a case of job done for the province who now sit just five points off the play-off places with a game in hand.

Kiss, however, admitted that an error-strewn middle of the game needed much improvement.

"It was certainly mission accomplished and we got the five points that we wanted," said the Australian.

"There were certainly some frustrating periods as well but to get six tries is a credit to the boys.

"We know there are some things to work on but we'll take that win."

If winning ugly against Edinburgh three weeks ago was a much needed boost to the squad's confidence, it had been hoped that the following round's stylish victory against Glasgow represented a considerable step forward in terms of the rugby played.

And while there were a few bright points on Sunday -Charles Piutau, Ruan Pienaar and Jacob Stockdale all contributed to some nice passages - all too often their attacking play was undermined by unforced handling errors and needless mistakes.

While not going as far as calling it a backwards step, Kiss acknowledged that his side's hunt for consistency within games goes on.

"That's certainly a part of our game that's growing, how we want to attack, but there were some real down patches in the match," he admitted.

"The boys talked about it afterwards and we've just got to keep our eye on the ball the whole way through the 80 minutes.

"At half-time we were disappointed with ourselves but we responded in the second half and finished the game off."

Other than the result, there were positives for Ulster, who saw Jared Payne return from long-term injury, Stockdale continue to impress, and former Irish Under-20s back-three player David Busby scored a try on his first senior appearance.

"Jacob played full-back and had a couple of big parts to play in two tries and scored one himself," Kiss noted. "Young Busby had a few injuries a couple of years ago so full credit to him because he's certainly earned a first start and to get a try was fantastic."

With little time to reflect on the win, or indeed the performance, Ulster are back in action on Friday evening, again against Italian opposition when Treviso visit Kingspan Stadium.

Again, Ulster will be expected to not only win but do so in style against one of the PRO12's minnows, while Kiss will have to consider rotation with just a five-day turnaround.

"Some selections last week had been planned for the five-day turnaround and with the travel back as well so we'll see what happens this week," he said.

"The injury front looks okay at this stage. We have a few cuts and bruises and Rob Herring has a slight knee issue that we'll see how it goes."

Flanker Clive Ross, who started at blindside in Parma, thinks it's important the squad continue to build momentum. After displaying such poor form in the winter months, Ulster are playing catch-up as they look to maintain a streak of finishing in the top-four that dates back to 2013.

"We are playing catch-up a bit at the moment," said Ross, who has appeared in 48 games for his adopted province.

"We have built a bit of momentum with recent results but we just keep a week to week focus and see where that takes us at the end of the season, we have a little bit of momentum but we have some tough games coming up at the end of the season. We'll just keep building momentum and see where that takes us."

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