Belfast Telegraph

Rory Best: Ulster must make sure Kingspan is their final PRO12 destination

By Michael Sadlier

On paper, the force appears to be with Ulster but Rory Best is still taking no chances when it comes to what needs to be done tomorrow afternoon.

The skipper has laid it on the line that a strong Munster side cannot be allowed to storm the Kingspan fortress. Ulster have won all 10 PRO12 games there this season and, including Europe, have only been defeated once in 13 home clashes in this campaign and that to the mighty Toulon.

With the top-four place already banked, a top-two finish is now the primary goal with the prospect of a semi-final at the Kingspan there to be grasped which would take third-placed Ulster just one game shy of making the final at their own stadium.

Two wins from their last two games (home to second-placed Munster and away to current leaders Glasgow, who play at fellow home semi chasers the Ospreys tonight) are required to secure that vital top-two finish and, armed with that knowledge, Best is demanding results.

"If we want a home semi-final, it's there for us," said the 32-year-old who is due to make his 169th Ulster appearance tomorrow.

"That next step is in our hands and we do not have to rely on anyone but ourselves," he added.

Seven wins from their last eight PRO12 outings have also given Ulster's cause added propulsion, but there is still a great deal to be done when it comes to deciding who finishes where with Glasgow, Munster, Ulster and the Ospreys all tightly packed together and battling to decide the venues for the play-offs.

"We are starting to improve game on game and we know we need to keep on improving," Best said. "The Leinster game (which they won two weeks ago to end the Blues' hopes of retaining the PRO12 title) was good for us.

"We played well in the conditions and we did what we had to. We were very professional how we went about that. But we have to better that again.

"So far we've achieved our first goal to get into the top four. I really hope we can now push on for a home semi-final and then go on to win this thing."

It's been nine years since they last took ownership of a title which has been far too long for Best and the other three still in the playing squad - Tommy Bowe, who spent time at the Ospreys, Roger Wilson, who had a spell at Northampton and the currently sidelined Andrew Trimble, who, like Best, has stuck around Ulster - to have tasted success with their home province, though Bowe did win a PRO12 title during his stint in Wales.

And, just to add to the hurt, Ulster had secured a home final in 2013 against Leinster only to have to take it to Dublin due to the rebuilding work being done at the then titled Ravenhill. Leinster, of course, triumphed at Ulster's 'home' showdown for the trophy.

"Two years ago we finished top but we had to go to the RDS to play it which was disappointing," Best mentions with a certain amount of understatement.

"But now we know the final is here and now it's up to us to go on and take that opportunity. Some of us have been around a long time and it's also been a long time since we last won something," he states before explaining that Ulster are now in a better place.

"We had a lot of uncertainty at the start of the season and I spoke a lot about the senior player group and how we got together and tried to give a bit of solidity at that time.

"People thought I was mad when I was saying we are building something here. Hopefully we have now grown into ourselves but we have to now perform."

Now is the time to grasp what is on offer.

Belfast Telegraph


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