Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Ulster's Neil Doak refuses to throw in the towel, but the maths simply don't add up

By Michael Sadlier

The embedded cameras had shown a dressing room with heads bowed and players slowly trying to come to terms with what had just unfolded while turning their more immediate thoughts to simply getting away from Llanelli.

Ulster's third defeat from four games, and their failure to back up the bonus-point thumping of the Scarlets in the previous game, had all helped usher them towards, and effectively out, of the European exit door so this was a difficult time to bring definition to their campaign.

Still, head coach Neil Doak tried his best to put a brave face on things and was, admirably, not to be found giving ground on openly admitting that Ulster's European adventure is now over and out.

"We've got to keep fighting to the end until mathematically it's not there for us," Doak said with a potential - but highly unlikely - 16 points still to be a possible final total for his squad.

"It's difficult and we knew that three wins were going to be there or thereabouts for us and so we'll just have to take stock and see what the next game against Toulon brings for us.

"It will be a pretty difficult challenge," the Ulster coach admitted of next month's trip to the south of France which is a reasonable outlook to take of the defending champions, who remain top of the group. As for last night's game, the coach could only lament Ulster's poor showing in the first half when their discipline let them down in spades.

"In the first half it wasn't great penalty count-wise for us," he stated. "It was 11 against (us) and three for (them) so that allowed them to get easy outs and get a little bit of territory and obviously our ill-discipline allowed them that 12-point lead at half-time."

Ulster did at least fight back when it mattered with Darren Cave's second-half try sparking their revival, but things still got away from the visitors.

"We knew we had to score early doors to get us back into the game and make sure that we were playing in the right areas. It was difficult enough out there and both teams were trying to get that edge and just do the simple things well," said Doak.

"Unfortunately we didn't do that enough," he admitted.

Ulster's scrum - with Wiehahn Herbst missing from tight-head prop and last night's starter Declan Fitzpatrick getting sin-binned - was an area where they badly struggled, losing four set-pieces.

"That's the platform that you launch things off," said the coach.

"But we got ourselves back in the game and we had a couple of chances but we didn't deliver.

"We know that at the top end of European games you only get small opportunities and we didn't take them."

No argument there.

From Belfast Telegraph