Belfast Telegraph

Scrum-half Marshall says Ulster must get over European exit and push on in pro12

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster must not let the bitter disappointment of their European exit linger according to scrum-half Paul Marshall. An eight-try win over Oyonnax on Saturday was not enough to book a place in the Champions Cup last eight, as Ulster missed out on a best runners-up spot by a solitary point, and the 30-year-old has warned that they must bounce back quickly with the coming weeks set to define their Pro12 campaign.

The province currently sit sixth in the domestic standings, having played a game less than three of the sides above them, and now face a six-game run of league action without their Six Nations stars.

"From our point of view, whether we qualified or not qualified, we need to kick on the league now," said the three-times capped number nine.

"The next five games in the league are going to dictate the top couple of teams in the league come the end of the season.

"From our point of view we want to build on this performance now and keep playing well.

"We want to play the way we played on Saturday and just keep pushing up that Pro12 table."

Having been one of the players sacrificed by Les Kiss at half-time of the reverse fixture against Oyonnax, a dropped point that now looks so crucial, Marshall was in impressive form on Saturday when provided with a sure footing in the game by his pack.

"From two weeks ago, we were on the backfoot against Oyonnax early on and we kind of said to the forwards, and across the board, that in the first five minutes 'let's dictate how we want to play.'

"We did that and put pressure on them. We just really wanted to start quickly after the last game.

"From our point of view, we did all we could.

"If you had offered us 56-3 before the game we probably would have taken it.

"At times against certain opposition we want keep the pace high.

"We tried to do that in the away game but we just didn't have the right platform."

It was an assessment that Kiss agreed with as he praised both the scrum-half and substitute number ten Ian Humphreys' contribution to the free scoring performance.

"I know people look back to the Oyonnax first-half but I had to make changes," said Kiss.

"People had a go at Paulie and Humphs but maybe we didn't just front up as a team and give them a chance to be at their best. We know that within ourselves.

"Today you saw Paul Marshall do a very good job with Ruan being out and Humphs comes on and plays some really smart footie. He backed himself when he had to, created opportunities and nailed his kicks. You have to be happy with what he gave us and we're going to have to rely on him going forward as well."

Marshall was keen, however, to praise the impact made by the rest of the backline.

Jared Payne was sublime on Saturday while Luke Marshall and the returning Darren Cave also made a massive impact.

With Stuart Olding to come back this week, Marshall feels the future behind Ulster's pack is a wholly exciting prospect.

"It's class," he enthused.

"We've got Stuart Olding just back into the mix and whenever you think that whole backline is here next year, with Charles Piutau to come as well, it's pretty mouthwatering.

"Jared's come back in and looks like he's never missed a game.

"He's an incredibly smart player and you maybe only appreciate that when you see him day in, day out.

"He's just fantastic. He makes the right decisions almost every time.

"He sees space, whether that's at 15 or 13, he just glides on the ball. He's got it all.

"He came back in seamlessly and it's good to get Darren back involved as well."

While it was ultimately futile, Marshall was pleased regardless to see that backline strength reflected on the scoreboard.

"From our point of view we had the five points we needed by half-time but it could have come down to points difference so the message was to keep going.

"Neil Doak said to the backs 'let's get another 20 points', I think we managed another 28, so we have to be pleased with what we did."

Belfast Telegraph


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