Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Ulster will use Euro hurt as a driving force: Reidy

By Michael Sadlier

The 80-minute shift at Stade Marcel Michelin had left its mark on Sean Reidy with Sunday's outcome ensuring that the toll had been both physically punishing and mentally draining.

And then, if all that wasn't bad enough, Reidy found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to front up off the pitch and offer some thoughts after Clermont had avenged what had happened in Belfast to now put Ulster in a position where they have effectively lost control of their own destiny in Pool Five of the Champions Cup.

Not an easy spot to be in, as he tried to look ahead while the 38-19 defeat was still hurting so deeply.

But at least, as the Kiwi back-rower made clear, the squad just don't have much in the way of time to stew over what occurred at Clermont's bear-pit of a ground with their PRO12 derby clash with Connacht back at the Kingspan looming large on Friday.

"There's no rest here," said the durable Reidy, who has been involved in all 13 of Ulster's games this season and was part of the Ireland get-together straight after Clermont.

"But we have to put this behind us and move on.

"Yes, it's a pretty short turnaround for Friday against Connacht and we know they played well," the 27-year-old added of the five-day gap between games and how the current PRO12 champions are doubtless on a high after, controversially, defeating Wasps at the weekend.

And Ulster go into Friday night without prop Kyle McCall, who suffered what Ulster Rugby described as "a significant hamstring injury" and is due to see a surgeon in London this week, while lock Peter Browne is sidelined due to a concussion.

Andrew Trimble, though, is available after recovering from a foot injury picked up playing for Ireland against Australia

So, it's now back to the PRO12 for the first of Ulster's three-game segment in the league before the Champions Cup resumes for the final two rounds of pool action.

And though Ulster triumphed at Cardiff last time out in the league, just prior to the back-to-back clashes with Clermont, their return of one win from four in the PRO12 is anything but uplifting for Les Kiss' currently fifth-placed squad.

They do, though, approach the Connacht game knowing that the westerners have failed to win in Belfast since 1960, but this record will be of little comfort this week, what with Ulster's short turnaround and the national camp having taken nine players - it's unclear how many will be available for the first festive derby game - out of the equation until tomorrow.

And after coming away from Clermont without any bonus points, Kiss has a job on his hands to re-focus for the second game in five days while Pat Lam's squad, who have won three of their last four games in all competitions - though, admittedly, the victories have been at home - will have had an extra day's rest and travel having already beaten Ulster in Galway in October.

Despite all that, Reidy was optimistic that Ulster can bounce back from Sunday and replicate the dazzling plays which did so much to win them that classic first meeting with Clermont.

"We know we can play some great footy," the one-time capped Ireland international said, referring directly to Sunday's comeback from being 28-0 down.

"We just have to hold onto that ball and do the little things.

"If we do that we know we can score some great tries, we have a really talented team and we also know we can play right up there with the best."

And as for Ulster's qualification chances in Europe now requiring two bonus-point victories, along with a series of other results going their way, to negotiate a way out of the pool, Reidy certainly wasn't prepared to admit that it's a tall order.

"In our last two games against Exeter and Bordeaux we need to really take it to them. We just can't sit back, we have to grab it for ourselves," he said.

This led to more reflection about what had unfolded on Sunday when Reidy and co coughed up five tries - the last one being the late penalty try which resulted in Paddy Jackson's yellow card - and made horrible starts to either half.

"We're pretty disappointed," admitted Reidy, Ulster's top tackler with eight hits.

"We just can't give away that many points in the first half (Clermont scored 21 without reply) and expect to win."

The need to open strongly and set out their stall physically will be high on the agenda for Connacht with, again, Reidy referencing Sunday's low points as having to be immediately rectified come Friday.

"They (Clermont) came out really physically in that first 15 to 20 minutes and that really set the tone for the rest of the match," he stated.

"It was definitely hugely physical out there and we let them get too much go-forward in their game."

The stakes will be high at the Kingspan on Friday as another reverse ahead of the New Year's Eve game against Leinster at the RDS could be pretty ruinous with a trip to the Scarlets then to come.

Reidy's not for looking that far ahead, but he is adamant that Ulster have shown what they can do - it's just a question of putting it all together with consistency.

He added: "When we started to get a bit of ball together (at Clermont), it just goes to show that if we keep the ball in hand we can score points."

Widget page
Widget page

From Belfast Telegraph