Heineken Cup: Ulster out to empty Bath
Ulster’s backs coach Neil Doak believes the Heineken Cup provides its own motivation.
That being the case, those chosen to face Bath on Saturday afternoon are unlikely to require a lengthy pep-talk.
“I just think the guys enjoy the challenge Europe provides and they look forward to that. It’s a competition where they play against opponents they normally don’t get to face.
“Playing some of the top English and French sides they normally only see on television gives everybody a boost, I suppose,” he said.
Like everybody else, he has his fingers crossed that the weather eases up.
“Nobody wants it to be off so fingers crossed,” he said.
Yesterday supporters joined Ulster Rugby staff in shovelling snow from the Ravenhill pitch.
And Doak believes that those same supporters can play a key role on Saturday as well.
He knows they love the prospect of seeing Ulster topple big names from the Aviva Premiership or Top 14. And he feels the crowd can play a part in help
ing Ulster maintain the recent form which yielded five tries in Cardiff and three more in Treviso five days later.
“Everybody enjoys the sort of rugby that gets people up out of their seats and on their feet.
“The people who go to Ravenhill love it when they see (Stephen) Ferris bursting through with the ball in his hands or the likes of (Andrew) Trimble or (Simon) Danielli going past an opponent.
“As well as being great to play in, it gets spectators going, too.
“That all adds to the energy — the electricity — and really helps rack things up for the guys on the pitch,” Doak said.
He knows Bath also prefer a flowing game and that given the pace they possess across their back line, Saturday could be an exhilarating contest against very dangerous opponents.
“Bath like to play a fast game and they’re good at quick off-loads so they probably won’t want too many breakdowns.
“But this isn’t about what they want, so we’ll just have to try and make sure we play it on our terms,” he said.
Explaining Ulster’s dramatic improvement when it has come to finishing he said: “The difference in the past two games is that, unlike the match against Munster, we took our chances.
“It’s not that we played badly against Munster. In fact, if you look at that game, we could have had 15 or 20 points in the first half-hour.
“But we didn’t finish some of what we’d created and at the top end of professional sport, you don’t get away with that.
“That’s what Munster have been so good at doing for years. They’ve been dogged in staying in a match until they’ve got a sniff and when that has come along they’ve taken it,” he said.
“We did that against Cardiff. And against Treviso we produced another very good performance in terrible conditions.
“They were no Mickey Mouse side. Cardiff and ourselves are the only teams to have beaten them in the Magners League over there, though Leicester won in the Heineken Cup.”
Now, for the next two weekends, his sights will be on Bath. So how does he view successive outings against the same opponents?
“With us being at home first, I think that’s an advantage. Because what matters most in back-to-back games is that you don’t lose the first one,” he said.