Paul Marshall drives Ulster forward
Andrew Trimble and Paul Marshall — two of the heroes of Ulster’s third successive Magners League win — took much personal satisfaction from Friday night’s triumph over Edinburgh at a wet and windy Ravenhill.
With Springbok star Ruan Pienaar having joined the Ulster squad, incumbent scrum-half Marshall’s response was to serve up his best performance of the season to date.
“Ruan Pienaar is a world-class player and there’s no hiding from that fact from anybody, that includes myself.
“But the key thing for me during the week was to focus on my job against Edinburgh.
“What happens next week or the week after that is out of my control,” was Marshall’s philosophical analysis of the situation.
He revealed that backs coach Neil Doak — himself an Ulster scrum-half in the past — had offered him support and words of encouragement.
“Neil said to me at the team run just to keep my head down and concentrate on the game in hand so that’s what I tried to do,” said the pivot, who went home with a bottle of champagne having been named the Bank of Ireland/Belfast Telegraph man-of-the-match.
“At the end of the day Ruan is coming into the squad and he’s going to play some rugby for Ulster at some stage.
“I’ve just got to keep my head down and do my best any time I get a chance,” he said.
As for Friday night’s win, which temporarily took Ulster to the top of the Magners League table, until Munster played and beat Ospreys on Saturday night at Thomond Park, Marshall’s assessment post-match was: “We’re obviously delighted to get the victory, though we’re a wee bit disappointed not to have got the bonus point.”
He was spot-on, of course, for had they banked that they would be sharing pole position with Munster rather a second, a point behind their Irish rivals.
“We probably had opportunities we could have taken so while we’re delighted to have won another game — it’s great to win again — as a squad moving forward we want to be ruthless,” Marshall said. “We want to be the best team around and for us to do that we’ve got to take our opportunities.
It has been a great start and certainly everybody who has come into the squad — there have been
a few rotations every week — has put up their hand and put in a great performance.
“It has been great from a playing point of view,” added Marshall, who has featured in all three of the Magners League triumphs to date.
Fit-again Trimble, who scored just two minutes into his first start of the season, admitted: “I thought my lungs were about to explode, because I haven’t done much running.
“But I settled down in the second half. I felt pretty good and started to enjoy it a bit more.”
His return to action, well ahead of schedule, following the serious surgery-requiring finger injury
he suffered while Down Under with Ireland in June, is a huge plus for the player, his club and Irish coach Declan Kidney.
Trimble said he was delighted just to be back on the pitch again after that lay off.
“I’m not a great spectator,” he revealed. “It’s difficult watching — and actually more difficult when we’re not doing well. It’s frustrating when we are doing well because you want to be part of it.
“I just spent the past week doing a lot of daydreaming and thinking I just couldn’t wait to get back on the pitch.”
Trimble also admitted that to have returned to a squad so much stronger than that of last season has been a real morale-boost on a personal level.
“The last couple of weeks maybe haven’t been pretty but I think we’ve shown a lot of maturity in that when things haven’t gone to plan we’ve been able to dig in.
“That’s something we didn’t used to do. Now we need to push on from there.”