Belfast Telegraph

Bowe says Ulster deserved more from agonising Saracens encounter

By Niall Crozier

* OMMY Bowe, who had caught and chased a high ball or two in his time, knows all about the risks entailed in either action.

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But he had no doubt about the validity and innocence of the challenge that saw Ulster full-back Jared Payne red-carded in the fourth minute of Saturday night's epic battle with Saracens.

"It's a very difficult one; when a player goes into the air he expects to be looked after, but if there's no malice....

"I think with Jared coming through he genuinely was looking at the ball the whole time, he didn't take his eyes off it," he said.

"For those contestable balls you're always going to have that little bit of risk there. That's the nature of the game, there's not really much you can do about that.

"Unfortunately it looked very dangerous, it looked like a bad fall on the ground. But personally I don't think there was any malice in it and it's very disappointing, very frustrating for us."

That was a crippling blow to Ulster's Heineken Cup hopes.

Bowe explained: "We were up against it. To lose a member of the back three against Saracens, who pride themselves on their kicking game, was always going to make it extremely difficult for us.

"But I think we catered very well, I think we dug in as a team. We had to do it all around the park and it's credit to the team and credit to the squad that we've got and the talent we've got that we got so close to winning. To come so close to winning it just makes it that bit more difficult."

Ulster had been confident ahead of this one, their belief being that they had the players and the plan to topple the Aviva Premiership leaders.

"Absolutely," Bowe said. "Going into the game I think that's why we felt so confident. We knew we had a full-strength team, we knew that the guys on the bench were going to come on and make a massive impact.

"We knew when it came to the second half, 60 minutes, we'd bring guys on and they'd make a huge impact. As a team we were very confident about that.

"Unfortunately, to lose Rory so early, to lose Jared and with Ruan carrying that knock made it very difficult. But the team showed huge character."

Asked what the mood in the dressing-room had been at half-time when Ulster led 9-5, Bowe revealed: "Johann said at half-time what it was going to mean to us to put everything on the line – 'You're going to have to be dragged off the pitch'.

"I think everybody did that and to get so close just makes it so, so difficult."

Saturday night's agonising defeat ended their hopes of winning the 2014 Heineken Cup and Bowe admitted: "This was maybe one of the best opportunities we're ever going to have."

Then, trying desperately to find some solace and comfort in the wreckage, he added: "On top of everything I think the character of the team and the support today as well was just incredible. Whenever we came out onto the pitch it was probably one of the best atmospheres I've ever played in front of –even in the warm-up.

"We owe a huge amount to the supporters here. We put everything on the line for them and unfortunately we weren't able to get over the line for them."

Meanwhile, Saracens' Brad Barritt, the England and British and Irish Lions player, felt that the atmosphere at a red-hot Ravenhill had inspired his side, writes Michael Sadlier.

"Playing 14 players can knock you out of stride. It's a bit strange and if anything it rallies the team that it's happened to and to give them (Ulster) credit they fought even harder for each other," he said.

"I think the guys thrived on it," he said of the wall of noise generated at Ravenhill.

"But I think the guys loved every minute of it. Playing in a great atmosphere like this is what you want to do.

"A trait of the Saracens team is that when the chips are down whoever's going to fill that shirt is up for fighting for the team."

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