Belfast Telegraph

Ulster must turn up the heat against Oyonnax, says Doak

By Jonathan Bradley

As an avid follower of the NFL's New England Patriots, it's perhaps no surprise that Ulster head coach Neil Doak has been paraphrasing the "do your job" mantra of his trans-Atlantic counterpart Bill Belichick this week.

The province host Oyonnax in the Champions Cup on Saturday (1pm kick-off) knowing that even a bonus-point win will leave them relying on assistance from elsewhere if they are to make the competition's quarter-finals.

Doak, however, has called on his players to take care of their own business before concerning themselves with the chances that two of Stade Francais, Northampton Saints, Wasps or Toulon and Ospreys or Clermont will falter over the remainder of the weekend.

"With us being up first, other teams will know what's what but we always knew it would come down to this game," said the former scrum-half.

"We've just got to make sure that we do our job and then ultimately rely on a couple of other results going our way.

"If that happens, we've done our job and can put the other teams under a bit of pressure.

"But it's exciting for the competition and shows how difficult it is to get out of your group."

A pool containing familiar foe Saracens and two trips to France was always likely to require careful navigation but Doak admits that should Ulster fail to make the last eight for the second season in succession, the team will look back with regret on their pair of contests across the Channel.

"Like most teams you can go back through the games and look for points," he reflected.

"The Toulouse away game, we had that forward pass just before half-time, if that had have fallen on our side then we've a bonus there.

"The Oyonnax game was disappointing. If we'd picked up what we'd hoped, things would have been more interesting.

"The second-half is how we wanted to play for most of the game and it didn't happen.

"When you look at it like that, those two points on top of what we have would have put us in a really good position this weekend.

"We were there or thereabouts for 50-60 minutes in the two Saracens games and then just didn't get a foothold."

With Doak describing the injury situation as "the usual bumps and bruises" of a European week, Ulster expect Irish international centre Darren Cave to be involved after overcoming a shoulder injury.

Nick Williams, who missed the Saracens game with concussion, is also set to return although Wiehahn Herbst (foot), Chris Henry (shoulder) and Louis Ludik (upper leg) all appear to be fighting a losing battle for fitness.

Knowing that only a large points tally will suffice, Ulster's coaches are still stressing the need for patience against the French strugglers with the second-half of the contest between the two a fortnight ago providing the perfect blueprint.

That day at the Stade Charles Mathon, the province trailed 23-0 at half-time but ultimately won by a point thanks to a late Paddy Jackson penalty.

Rather than chasing tries from the offset, Doak wants to see that same patience on Saturday.

"We need to make sure our basics are good," he said. "If you look at the second-half over there, that's the template that we want to have.

"We played in the right areas, we had six or seven set-pieces in the first 10 or 15 minutes and came away with points on the board. We want similar this weekend.

"If you look at the games against Oyonnax (from other sides), Stade Francais who they beat and Toulouse who they beat, they threw the ball around and had them under serious pressure. It's not about chasing, it's about the basics.

"Play in the right areas, put them under pressure and be clinical; that's got to be the message for us. You have to build a platform.

"Ultimately everybody knows we've got to get the five points and work that points difference. Hopefully things are in our favour come the end of the weekend."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph