Belfast Telegraph

Robbie Diack urging Ulster to rediscover their clinical edge ahead of PRO12 clash

By Michael Sadlier

If he had been given a choice, Robbie Diack might have preferred avoiding last Saturday as a way of marking his milestone 150th appearance for Ulster.

Firstly, he was sprung from the bench, which is never ideal but has lately become the norm for the long-serving 29-year-old, and then there was the matter of the result with Paddy Jackson's much-fabled conversion snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Still, it was better than losing and the two points have managed to keep Ulster's flimsy hopes of still snaffling a home PRO12 semi-final alive, even if it requires a win in Glasgow on Saturday allied to another result going their way.

"I obviously would have enjoyed my 150th by getting a win, but I said to Jacko afterwards in the changing room, 'thanks for helping not to lose it with that crucial kick,'" says the player who can function in the back row and at lock.

Diack has been around these parts since the start of the 2008-9 season after coming over from his native South Africa and has even managed to collect two Ireland caps with his debut coming in last summer's Argentina tour after qualifying to wear the green shirt on residency grounds.

But, for all that, there is still a niggle to be sorted out in that Ulster have yet to get their hands on a trophy despite making a Heineken Cup final and PRO12 shoot-out in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

"Just to be part of this team and play so many games for this club, and to be part of Ulster for so many years, is an honour and privilege for me," the Johannesburg-born player says.

"But I hope this is the year that we pick up some silverware, we desperately need it."

Though the PRO12 final is bolted-on for the Kingspan, Ulster still have some distance to travel before they can potentially run out in front of their home crowd for the season-ending showdown.

Fourth-placed Ulster go to Glasgow on Saturday and are pitted against the Scottish side (who are in second but on the same points as leaders the Ospreys and Munster in third) with the highly preferable possibility of a much sought after home semi-final on offer to the winner.

"Yes, we have to go to Glasgow and we can take it to Glasgow," Diack added of the determined performance Ulster produced to snatch last Saturday's draw after being reduced to 14-men following Iain Henderson's sending off.

"It was frustrating," he said of the 23-23 result but made it known that if Ulster can create as many chances against Glasgow as they did against Munster, except this time make them stick, then they will be a formidable force.

"One of these days all those chances are going to go to hand and we are going to come away with a fantastic victory.

"It could be a crucial one this week or the following week and if we just keep working hard and recognising our mistakes and try to fix them, we'll reap the benefits," Diack stated.

"With the squad and leadership we have we can go away and win a semi-final no matter where it is.

"There is a motivation in the team and we're hungry to win, we know where the final is and (if Ulster make it) we know it will be a difficult place to come."

With a maximum of three games left, Diack doesn't want to see another one go by with nothing to show for their efforts.

"We just want it to be an important season for Ulster Rugby and get some silverware. We've put the hard yards in."

NO Ulster player managed to pick up an award at last night's Irish Rugby Players' Association (IRUPA) awards in Dublin with Paul O'Connell making off with the evening's top prize of the Hibernia College IRUPA Players' Player of the Year and the Newstalk Supporters' Player of the Year as well.

Craig Gilroy had been up for Volkswagen Try of the Year for his stunning effort playing for Ulster against the Scarlets, but Robbie Henshaw's Six Nations touchdown against England got the nod and the Connacht man also made off with the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year title.

Chris Henry's bid to secure the Hibernia College Medal For Excellence also failed to come to fruition with Connacht stalwart Michael Swift taking the prize.

The 3 Unsung Hero for 2015 went to Leinster's Darragh Fanning who pipped Ulster's Callum Black and Munster's Denis Hurley while the latest induction to the BNY Mellon IRUPA Hall of Fame was granted to David Wallace.

Lucy Mulhall was named as the BNY Mellon Women's Sevens Player of the Year and Alan Quinlan walked off with the Zurich Contribution to Irish Society award.

Meanwhile, the club game is being honoured tonight at the Aviva Stadium for this season's Ulster Bank League Awards.

There is some local interest with Ballynahinch's Ross Adair having been shortlisted for both the Ulster Provincial Player of the Year and the Rising Star gongs.

Ballymena's Sean Taylor is up for Division 1B Division Player of the Year while Armagh's Neil Faloon is in the running for 2B Division Player of the Year. Both Faloon and Taylor join Belfast Harlequins' Frank Taggart in vying with Adair on the shortlist for Ulster Provincial Player of the Year.

Pro12 League: Glasgow v Ulster, Scotstoun, Saturday, 3.00 pm

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