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McCrea pleased to make his Mark

By Gavin Mairs

Ulster new-boy Mark McCrea admitted his try-scoring debut in the 13-12 victory over Leeds Carnegie at Ravenhill on Friday night was a dream come true.

The former Belfast High School pupil, who joined Malone last season, made the vital difference when he scorched over for the only try of the game eight minutes from time, with Paul Steinmetz's conversion putting Ulster in front for the first time in the match.

And Ulster Academy player McCrea, who only joined up with the senior squad three weeks ago for pre-season training, enjoyed his taste of the big time.

"I couldn't have dreamed of anything better," said the 19-year-old. "I was hoping to score a try and to win was absolutely brilliant.

"Paul Steinmetz called the wing option, drew the man and the gap was there. I went straight through.

"I couldn't believe when I got to the line and saw that there was no-one ahead of me. I thought there would be a lot more work to do.

"I had been nervous all day, but once I met up with the boys I calmed down.

"It was a lot faster and more physical than I am used to and it was a very good test.

"I only joined up with the senior squad three or four weeks ago to fill in for some of the World Cup players. I have just been doing what I am told and working hard!

"This has given me a taste of professional rugby and I absolutely love it."

Ulster are currently in Portugal for a week-long warm-weather training camp before the province's second friendly against Gloucester at Ravenhill on Saturday night.

Justin Harrison, Kieron Dawson and Simon Danielli should all be available having missed Friday's game because of injury.

"This has been our longest pre-season for quite some time," said coach Mark McCall.

"We have been at it for quite some time and this is an opportunity to take the players into a new environment.

"The Browns resort in Vilamoura is a state-of-the-art complex which Ireland have used before and England and Australia used this summer for their World Cup preparations. It is an opportunity for us to get a week's preparations in ideal conditions and get a bit of a buzz."

Meanwhile, Ulster have included Ballynahinch's New Zealand fly-half Seminar Manu in their official 36-man Magners League squad.

Manu played for the Old Boys University club in Wellington and was a World Cup winner with the New Zealand Under-19 team in 2004. Ballymena tight-head Simon Shawe returns to the panel.

ULSTER'S MAGNERS LEAGUE SQUAD: Tim Barker, Mark Bartholomeusz, Tommy Bowe, Nigel Brady, Ryan Caldwell, Kieran Campbell, Jarleth Carey, Darren Cave, Niall Conlon, Tom Court, Bryn Cunningham, Simon Danielli, Kieron Dawson, Stephen Douglas, David Drake, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Neil Hanna, Justin Harrison, Chris Henry, David Humphreys, Mark Kettyle, Adam Larkin, Matt McCullough, Paul McKenzie, Neil McMillan, Seamus Mallon, Seminar Manu, Paul Marshall, Niall O'Connor, Filo Paulo, Stuart Philpott, David Pollock, Simon Shawe, Paul Steinmetz, Roger Wilson.

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