Neil Doak is reluctant to tempt fate. But the reality is that he’s yet to lose a game against Connacht either as player or coach.
It’s a record he hopes to maintain when Ulster go head-to-head with Connacht in the Galway Sportsground tomorrow night.
Doak, equally gifted at rugby as at cricket, points to Ulster’s lack of killer instinct for a season that has been at best inconsistent.
Against Harlequins in the Heineken Cup at Ravenhill, they showed they could take on and beat the best.
But sadly they were unable to press on from there and before long, they had reverted to type.
Doak, now part of the Ulster coaching team, said: “We’ve had ourselves in some great positions but possibly through lack of experience, we’ve let games slip.
“We were always liable to lose games through making some fundamental mistakes.
“We got ourselves as high as fifth in the Magners League at one stage, so it’s vital we win our last two games.
“It’s all too easy to forget that we have a very young side with something like six of the squad under 21.
“And yet some of the mistakes we made were inexcusable. The one thing you need more than anything else at this level is consistency and that’s where we fell down far too often.”
It’s hard to argue with that, considering that Ulster claimed the scalps of both Harlequins and Munster.
And yet for a variety of reasons they were unable to build on that momentum which must have left both Doak and Matt Williams tearing their hair out.
Doak rightly highlights Ulster’s well-documented inability to kill off teams, but there were times too when their defence, or indeed lack of it, cost them dearly.
He appreciates it’s an aspect of their game they must get right against Connacht.
“We’re under no illusions of the task that lies ahead especially facing them in their own paddock.
“It would be a huge boost for them if they could put one over on us, having already seen off both Munster and Leinster. Forget about their league position for they have been brilliant for Irish rugby.
“They are tucked away in the west of Ireland away from the mainstream of rugby and yet they keep plugging away in often very difficult circumstances. It’s vital for Irish rugby that we have four provinces all vibrant and competitive and Connacht certainly do their bit in that regard,” he said.
There’s no danger of Doak taking Connacht lightly. The players would do well to follow his warning.