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Focused Lewis Stevenson has big point to prove

Michael Sadlier

The fickle way the game's fortune likes to ebb and flow has been, of late, all too evident for Lewis Stevenson.

After coming on for the injured Johann Muller in the thumping win over Cardiff Blues at the end of October, and putting himself about with some gusto, Stevenson then got the nod for the trip to the Scarlets and, well, all the momentum Ulster had been building was brought to a shuddering halt by a dismal performance and defeat at Parc y Scarlets.

With Muller sidelined, Dan Tuohy away with Ireland and Iain Henderson out injured, the trip to Wales was a great chance for Stevenson to set out his stall again but, instead, the 29-year-old second row was left to head off for his week's break on the back of a performance which had fallen well below the required standard.

"It was really frustrating," Stevenson said of the Scarlets experience.

"And particularly so because we didn't have any games afterwards," he added.

"It's good in that when you don't have a good performance, the next week you're straight into the next thing and you don't have time to think about it and you just have to focus on the next game."

The bad taste of it all lingered with him but then, last Friday night, Stevenson got some of it out of his system in a useful hit-out for the Ulster Ravens when the side which he skippered saw off Connacht Eagles at the Deramore-hosted friendly.

Yes, but then that fickleness of fortune emerged again when, late on, Stuart Olding shipped a knee injury which brought his season to a premature end.

Even though Stevenson is a battle-hardened pro, with spells at Exeter and Harlequins bringing him ample exposure to good and bad times, he seems genuinely upset at the memory of Olding's injury.

"Yes, we're gutted for Stuart and everyone was devastated," he recalled of last Friday which was meant to put an internationally weakened Ulster back in the right frame of mind for tonight's return to serious action at home to Edinburgh.

Still, there was nothing else for it but get back to the grind and for Stevenson that means digging out a big game against Edinburgh, full of his trademark controlled aggression and high work-rate around the park.

"I was happy with my performance when I came on against the Blues and you want to back that up and put a statement down and put pressure on the guys that regularly start.

"So it was disappointing not to follow it up with another good performance but it happens and you just have to put it behind you and go and put things right," he added before mentioning what could be a personal mantra.

"The more you play the better you get," he stated with clearly one thing on his mind, holding down one of the starting spots in the second row while Muller is away.

"So it would be really good to get a string of games and then put pressure on the guys coming back so that they don't automatically start," he said.

With that in mind, his late call-up to the bench for Ulster's seismic Heineken Cup win in Montpellier is given an airing. Stevenson was originally meant to be with the Ravens at Ravenhill but then travelled with the senior squad after a late reshuffle of resources which also allowed him get on the field to help secure the historic result.

"Montpellier was a statement of where we need to be and that is our marker," he said, before turning to tonight's game.

He added: "A few guys, and me individually as well, will have a point to prove."

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