Belfast Telegraph

My Ulster heroes

Best delight at incredible win double over French

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster captain Rory Best was thrilled to silence the province's doubters with yesterday's hard earned 25-23 win over Toulouse at the Stade Ernest Wallon, completing an incredible double over the French giants.

Despite a heavy defeat to Saracens in their first pool game, Les Kiss's men are right back in the mix for a Champions Cup quarter-final place as Ulster built on last Friday's 38-0 success at Kingspan.

Tries from Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall sealed a famous win in the south of France with Best hailing his heroes, saying: "No-one expected us to come here and win at the start of the campaign and we've done that.

"People who don't know the squad probably looked at the injuries against Edinburgh or the loss at Saracens and said 'oh, that's the season over' but we've put ourselves in a good position to qualify."

Having taken nine points from the double-header with Toulouse, the skipper admitted to a feeling of real pride over how his squad have resurrected their Euro campaign.

"This is one of the toughest places I've come to," he reflected. "I came here with Ulster in 2007 and got well beaten up so to come here, match that physicality, and come out with a win we can be rightly proud."

Rory Best added: "Toulouse are a great team and they have some stars of world rugby.

"Last week we put in a really good performance.

"This week we knew that they were going to be a lot more physical for us and that's what they did."

Ulster still have a visit to Saracens to negotiate, as well as home and away contests with lowly Oyonnax, when the competition resumes next month and Best is determined that the pair of victories over Toulouse will not be wasted by a complacent attitude against the French minnows.

"When the time comes to play Oyonnax, if we think we just have to turn up and win it goes against everything that we've worked hard to achieve," the hooker added.

"We'll give them the respect they deserve and it'll be a difficult game.

"We feel that if we are right, dictate the tempo and play well we can be a match for anyone."

In the immediate future, when the players return to training tomorrow, focus is back on domestic matters with a testing Pro12 trip to Connacht slated for Boxing Day.

Best is expecting the festive fixture to be a real battle at the Sportsground down in Galway.

"We said a few weeks ago that this was going to be a tough stretch of seven games," said the 33-year-old.

"We're two weeks into that now and we'll come back on Tuesday and look at Connacht.

"They'll have a lot of self-belief, sitting top of the table and there's a lot to play for.

"We'll re-focus on that come Tuesday."

That sentiment was echoed by Ulster's director of rugby Les Kiss.

"I think the boys have every right to sit back and reflect on this," said the man who has now won four of his six games in charge of the province.

"After the last two weekends, Christmas will be nice but the Pro12 is an important competition for us.

"Connacht are on top of the ladder and it'll be a really tough game.

"It's a massive game for all of us.

"We have to make sure that we're in the right headspace," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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