Belfast Telegraph

Ulster must use hurt as an incentive to kick-start Euro challenge, says Trimble

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster skipper Andrew Trimble has said the side must produce a backlash against Exeter Chiefs this weekend after a poor start to their European season.

The province dropped their Champions Cup opener for the third campaign in succession against Bordeaux-Begles in the Stade Chaban Delmas on Sunday in a performance that Operations Manager Bryn Cunningham branded "atrocious".

Director of Rugby Les Kiss called for his squad to take a "hard look at themselves" in the aftermath of a game they led until the 72nd minute and Trimble believes a response is necessary at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.

"We're hurting from the last two weeks and we've got to produce a backlash on Saturday," said the Coleraine man of his side's first two-game losing streak since March.

"We put ourselves in a position to win. We defended for such long periods but we hit our breaking point.

"If you're going to defend for as long as we had to, that's going to happen. Whenever we did get a chance to play rugby we didn't get the tempo high enough and we couldn't hold onto the ball.

"We just gave it straight back to them and then we're under pressure again. It's a very difficult result to come to terms with."

Cunningham added that the second-half performance left him "gobsmacked" and Trimble admits that the showing after the turn led to the visitors being outsmarted by Bordeaux's game plan.

"When you're over here you have to absorb a certain amount but once they get one break across the gainline they can be very difficult to stop. We got a foothold with the try but they outsmarted us in the second half," he said.

"There'll be a bit of honesty this week. We'll look at ourselves and the areas of the game we slipped up with. They exposed us.

"It's a shame because we defended well for a long time. It'll be nice getting back to Belfast and hopefully put on a big performance."

Kiss, who is sweating on the fitness of Ruan Pienaar after his influential Springbok scrum-half sustained a knee problem in the closing minutes, said the travelling supporters deserved a much better performance in the south-west of France.

"It's absolutely fantastic what they (the fans) give us," he said. "They deserve better and unfortunately we didn't deliver what we should have for them.

"We can't fault what the supporters gave to us and I know there is deep disappointment in the dressing room that we let them down.

"We've got to stand up and deliver next week because we know our supporter base will."

Ulster will not be the only team demanding improvement come the weekend, however, after Exeter were thumped at home by Top14 pace-setters Clermont.

The two-time European runners-up ran in five tries as part of a 35-8 victory and Exeter head coach Rob Baxter wants to see an angry response from his side this week.

"It feels a bit of a low to me, really, because I don't think that was a level of performance that is anything like we can achieve or have achieved in the past," he said.

"I am not saying the boys are not working hard but there were a lot of errors in there, and our Achilles heel this season of conceding some soft points out of very innocuous situations reared its head again.

"We've lost plenty of games - and against far worse teams than Clermont - in the time I've been coaching the club, but I am expecting us to be a bit angry with some of the things that went on.

"If that's our response I will be pleased. What I don't want our response to be is the guys just come into training and get on with things and sooner or later our season will ignite.

"When you wait for something to happen, it never happens. You have got to make it happen."

Baxter (left) even said that the hammering could be the best preparation for his side's visit to Kingspan.

"In some ways it's potentially a good result for us because you clear the decks with a result like that and you almost start again and go right back to your basics.

"We've lost a home game in Europe now, which we didn't do last season, so it is going to be tough, but we can look forward to some of the challenges ahead," he said.

"Clermont were very clinical, and they looked like a team that weren't going to come here and take second best. They weren't going to let themselves get in a poor position in the pool.

"We were bullied a bit at the breakdown at times, and some of our unforced errors really did start to mount up."

As Ulster wait for news on Pienaar, Exeter are hopeful that England hooker Luke Cowan-Dicke will be fit to play despite twisting his ankle against Clermont.

Fellow England international Jack Nowell is already out with a thumb problem for the side who boast two Ulster natives in Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten.

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