Brussels re-match won’t be pretty, promises Ferris
Ulster's Stephen Ferris, the victim of an eye-gouging incident in Saturday’s epic 23-13 Heineken Cup victory over Stade Francais at Ravenhill, is gearing up for a French backlash when he and his colleagues face the Parisians in Brussels.
The second-half assault on Ferris is under investigation, with replacement prop David Attoub and scrum-half Julien Dupuy the men in the spotlight. There ought to be no shortage of evidence, television cameras having captured what went on.
Should one or both be found guilty, he or they will miss Saturday’s re-match and quite a few additional weeks besides. Gouging is all too common in professional rugby and with the authorities insistent that they are determined to eradicate it from the game, no-one who is found guilty can expect anything other than a lengthy suspension.
Ferris revealed: “All through the match they were saying, ‘We’ll see you next week, we’ll see you next week’, so it’s going to be tough over there. But every Heineken Cup game is tough.
“I think they were maybe thinking of coming over here, getting an easy win and then going back and throwing the ball around in Brussels. Not now.”
Ulster’s response to events on the pitch, where they stood up and met fire with fire, was complemented by their measured reaction off it. Saturday’s triumph over rivals who had been tipped to win Heineken Cup pool four at a canter produced an impressively mature reaction on the victors’ part.
Ulster’s post-match attitude was that of a squarely, firmly grounded body of men who know the difference between a job half finished as opposed to seen through to completion.
True, it has taken them to the top of their group. But coach Brian McLaughlin, captain Chris Henry, try-scorer Simon Danielli and Ferris, who was outstanding, spoke as one in stressing that while they were delighted with the result and the table-topping position is has given them, in and of itself it means nothing at this stage.
Henry pointed out: “We could have done a lot better, particularly in the final quarter when we were maybe guilty of giving possession away a wee bit too cheaply.
“A few times we took it into contact and we didn’t recycle it, or, if we did, it wasn’t quick enough or clean enough. And once or twice we kicked it away when we might have made them work a bit harder for it.”
McLaughlin certainly wasn’t getting carried away. Nor, one suspected, would he be allowing any of his players to do so, albeit that he conceded they were entitled to savour the moment and enjoy the night before returning to work in preparation for what is now going to be a massive re-match in Brussels on Saturday.
“Our discipline in the second half was worrying. We gave away a lot of penalties in the final 20 minutes so that’s something we’re going to have to look at and address,” said McLaughlin, suggesting a pretty hard work schedule this week as he bids to eradicate such errors.
Danielli, too, was frank and forthright: “It was a cup game and if we’d lost it our Heineken Cup goals for this season would have been over.
“Next weekend is going to be hard. We’re going to face a completely different team next week, though with it being in Brussels rather than Paris it’s sort of an away day for them, too.
“We’ve done well and we’ve got a great result. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Next week is going to be an entirely different challenge.
”We’ll go there to face a side who are really going to be baying for revenge.”