Belfast Telegraph

Luke Marshall: We let chance slip:

Realistic Marshall faces up to the fact that Euro progress has gone

By Michael Sadlier

It had been an eventful enough comeback game for centre Luke Marshall though the final result had, of course, taken full ownership of how he felt after having seen his first action since October.

He had linked so well with a well-angled run to help Darren Cave - who handed twice in the move - get over the line and help breathe some life into what had been, up to that point, an utterly listless Ulster performance on a night when they needed to hit the ground running.

Marshall was also there, on Cave's shoulder, late on when another try was there for the taking thanks to Tommy Bowe's angled break, only for Cave's juggle of the ball to ensure that the scoring pass to his centre partner was never really on.

Ulster still got a penalty out of the incursion but a try and a certain conversion would have tucked them in just a solitary point behind the Scarlets.

Now all that was left was 'what might have been' and Marshall certainly wasn't for dodging the issue when Ulster's now inevitable-looking exclusion from any last eight prospects was thrown his way.

"Yeah, I think if we're honest with ourselves I think qualification is probably gone," he said.

"I think we need a lot to go our way and with the quality of the teams in our group I don't think they'll let things slip like that so qualification probably is gone.

"It's tough to sum it up," Marshall admitted of Ulster's European season so far what with the rawness of last night's defeat still biting hard.

"We've been unlucky with our injuries but all the games we've lost we had chances to win.

"We had our chances at Leicester and had them against Toulon as well so it's been a tough campaign with injuries and the tough group we're in but I think we can just learn lessons and improve as a team and look to qualify again in the future."

Instead of wallowing in his disappointment, though, Marshall chose to turn his attention towards what was always likely to hold Ulster's best hope of making it to a final this season.

"We've still a lot to play for in the league and we're doing well at that and we're looking for a strong finish in that and we might even get some silverware from it," said the 23-year-old.

He also had to admit that a back-to-back win over the Scarlets was also there to be taken after Ulster mounted a stirring second half comeback last night after trailing 12-0 at a rain-swept Parc y Scarlets.

"We worked really hard second half and got ourselves into a good position and it was a small lapse of concentration gave them that try at the end but I think to be brutally honest the first half just wasn't good enough for us.

"To go 12 points down was pretty disappointing. We could have got it back but we can't start that badly and expect to win games like this. I suppose these are lessons to learn for the rest of the season."

Indeed so, and the centre revealed that the half-time team talk was a case of the coaching staff giving the players both barrels regarding their poor work on the field and the side responded and even managed to score points when prop Declan Fitzpatrick was binned.

"I think at half-time we got a good kick up the backside to get us going. It was so disappointing and they played the conditions perfectly and got themselves ahead.

"We did show character to get back into it and could have snatched the victory but it just wasn't to be," added the Ireland international.

Indeed a late penalty miss from Ruan Pienaar - who had nailed two vital penalties after taking over from Ian Humphreys after the out-half had missed one second half strike at goal - also proved costly as an opportunity to take a one-point lead with five minutes to go went a begging.

And as for finding some form of solace from the difficult playing conditions, Marshall opted to avoid looking for excuses.

"The conditions weren't great but it was the same for both sides and they played them better in the first half."

Belfast Telegraph


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