Ulster's Les Kiss happy despite loss to Leinster's late show
Leinster 31 Ulster 14
With still some weeks to go before rugby becomes a results-driven business, Les Kiss was satisfied with Ulster's first outing of the pre-season despite losing to Leinster in Navan on Saturday.
While their inter-provincial rivals boasted greater PRO12, and indeed international, experience, the Australian's youthful selection matched Leo Cullen's side on the scoreboard for 70 minutes thanks to converted tries from Mark Best and Rob Lyttle.
The hosts, however, would run in three unanswered scores during the closing stages.
Last season's beaten PRO12 finalists were good value for the win but there were a number of performances to encourage Kiss in spite of a hint of frustration over the late lapses.
"We want to win every game but from the perspective of a friendly, we've got to be very pleased with the first 70 minutes," said the Director of Rugby. "The last 10, we had a lot of young guys in there and a lot of guys who haven't had the chance to train with us.
"Overall we're really happy with what we delivered against a pretty experienced Leinster team right the way through. That's not to downplay what our guys were trying to do but experience does matter. What we got from that, was experience. If you take the first-half, I thought we put some really good stuff together. We got the width and put some holes in them.
"In the second-half, our scrum really aimed up and put them under pressure. I don't think you're going to get a penalty try in a friendly but that's the way it goes.
"It wasn't perfect but we saw enough to be happy with. The boys are a little down with the end but I want them to understand what they delivered in the 70 minutes was very important."
Ulster travel to Premiership side Exeter on Saturday for the next step in their preparation for a league opener against Dragons on September 2 and Kiss is expecting to bring a more experienced panel to Sandy Park.
"Exeter are one of the best in Europe really and Rob Baxter has done a fantastic job," he said of a side Ulster will play home and away in this season's Champions Cup pool stage.
"We'll have a different team out there and a few more blokes will come back into the mix. We're looking at Charles (Piutau) coming in for his first run. The likes of Franco (van der Merwe), Pete Browne, Rob Herring too. There's a few other guys that will come back into the fray and we'll see how that team stacks up when we make our decisions."
Kiss also offered an update on some key contributors who will miss the start of the season. Both flanker Chris Henry and prop Wiehahn Herbst have sustained injuries during the pre-season and will be absent for months.
"At this stage, it's too long to say," he revealed when asked how long the pair would be out of action.
"It'll be between eight and 13 weeks for both of them, I would say. One may be longer than the other but we won't have a true indicator until they're back into contact.
"We had Kieran Treadwell loaded for this game but he had to step out on Friday. Lorcan Dow we lost to injury during the Portugal camp and it would have been nice to see him have a run too.
"Conor Joyce has a hole in his ear drum unfortunately so can't play for another two weeks. We got sort of decimated in the back-row a little bit."
On Dan Tuohy and Peter Nelson, both of whom are coming back from injuries that ended their seasons last time out, he added: "There's been really positive news in the last week.
"Their volume of running is stepping up and so is the pressure they're putting on. Time frame is still difficult to say with accuracy but we're being patient.
"Tommy (Bowe) has been training well. We're not putting a time on it but it's been nice to see him running and improving everyday."
Ulster first-half: L Ludik; D Busby, M Best, S Windsor, J Stockdale; B Herron, D Shanahan; K McCall, J Murphy, J Simpson; A O'Connor, J Donnan; S Mullholland, N Timoney, M Rea.
Ulster second-half: A McGrath; D Busby, R Lyttle, R Butler, J Stockdale; J McPhillips, A Lloyd; A Warwick, J Andrew, R Ah You; A O'Connor, J Donnan; C Ross, C Boomer, M Rea.
Other s used: C Smyth, C Kelly, A Thompson, A Cairns, R Kane, M Lagan, Z McCall.