Belfast Telegraph

African safari my best week in rugby: Chris Henry

 

By Adam McKendry

Ulster flanker Chris Henry has described his South African experience as the best week in his rugby career.

The 32-year old captained his province to their thrilling 43-36 win over the Southern Kings at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium on Saturday, which saw the two sides share 12 tries in a thrilling Guinness PRO14 clash.

It was Ulster's first competitive game in South Africa, and a new experience for the majority of the players with the Ireland internationals missing from the squad.

And Henry, who has savoured many highlights for Ulster in a seasoned career, says the trip to Port Elizabeth tops the lot. "South Africa, honestly, has been the most enjoyable week I've had in an Ulster shirt," the Lisburn man enthused.

"Watching the last 30 minutes I was desperate for us to do the job because if we'd lost, it would have been a really long journey home.

"Now it's perfect, we got five points, we're back in second (in the conference) and it's been an amazing week. For us to play that first game, that's history.

"I can truthfully say it's the most enjoyable rugby experience I've had."

The game proved to be the ideal finish to Ulster's mini-tour away, Les Kiss' side banishing the bad memories of back to back losses to La Rochelle and Leinster with the five pointer.

A back and forth tussle emerged in Kwazakhele, with the lead changing no less than four times and five tries being scored in a breathless final 20 minutes as the Ulstermen clung on.

Clearly boosted by a bigger crowd in their new home, the Kings put in their best performance of the season so far, sprinting out of the gates with two early tries that stunned the visitors.

“They were massively fired up,” Henry said.

“It was really tough, they played some cracking rugby and we had to work hard to get back in and give ourselves a chance.

“I feel sorry for them because we’ve been on the other side of those results and on another day it could have easily gone their way.

“Ultimately we’re walking away from here very happy and very relieved.”

Les Kiss’ side now go into a two week break during the November internationals before they return to league action against Benetton, and it’s a chance for most of the players to refresh ahead of a typically busy festive period.

 The win will undoubtedly leave them in a better place mentally than had they lost the game, particularly after their poor performance a week previous against Leinster.

Henry acknowledges that the squad know they haven’t been performing up to standard, but hopes this chance to rest up before returning to action can prove to be a positive.

“Are we playing our best rugby?” he questions, before ­answering himself: “Absolutely not. But to get a bonus point win on the other side of the world and get back to second (in the conference), we’re reasonably happy.

“The break has probably come at a good time for us and we’ll regroup, but more so individually we’ll go away and say, what am I doing here, what’s working and what’s not working?

“We know we have a quality squad of players, we just need

to get the best out of everybody.”

Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids said: “This was a game where I don’t think

Ulster won it, it’s a game that we lost.

Belfast Telegraph

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