Belfast Telegraph

Ulster coach dedicates win to memory of Nevin Spence

This one was for Nevin

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss hailed his side’s 27-20 winning  performance against Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium last night as one that would have thrilled the late Nevin Spence.

Playing on the five year anniversary of the day their young star tragically lost his life alongside his father Noel and brother Graham in a farming accident, a rousing showing saw off the league champions, thanks to a dramatic late try from substitute hooker John Andrew after Jacob Stockdale had also touched down for a determined Ulster side.

With Rory Best appearing on crutches pre-game and awaiting news on a hamstring injury that has put his participation in next month’s European Champions Cup games in doubt, it could have been a particularly tough night for Ulster but the late comeback saw the side end the evening at the top of Conference B with three wins from three.

And, given the emotional pre-match tributes to the Spence family, Kiss was especially pleased to see his side emerge victorious.

“I think the way that the boys kept fighting was indicative of what Nev would have wanted,” said the Australian.

Ulster coach Kiss added: “It’s a credit to the boys that they carried that through for those moments.

“They stood up with Nev out there and delivered. It was emotional, sure.

“Chris Henry rightly at the end of the night in the dressing room alluded to that and that was one of our key after match messages.

“That emotion was an important part of the week, it was managed well by Chris throughout the week.

“I thought in terms of placing it in its right context and letting it come out the way it should, and the only way it came out that it should do is through what the players say and feel and do,” he said.

Having been underdogs in their own stadium up against a side that had lost only two of their last 23 domestic games, it was an important win for Ulster, especially having lost some momentum with last week’s failure to net a bonus-point out in Treviso.

“We’re absolutely thrilled we put in a performance like that, particularly towards the back end of the game. I think both teams were a little dicey in the first half, but it was one of those tense affairs, and when people got tired they (the Scarlets) backed themselves.

“They hurt us a couple of times, but it impressed me that the boys had the bravery to stand up and keep fighting, and that’s an important characteristic that we’ll continue to build on.

“We’re not in full flow with our combinations, there are a lot of guys who are still finding their first or second game together in certain positions — (John) Cooney and Christian (Leali’ifano), and those sorts of things.

“To get the win in that fashion is very pleasing.”

While more certain news is expected on Best in the early stages of next week after the Ulster and Ireland captain had a scan yesterday, Ulster emerged from last night’s win only nursing minor injuries.

While Louis Ludik did not return to the field after an HIA and Kieran Treadwell was replaced with a foot injury, the sight of try-scorer Jacob Stockdale hobbling off the pitch was down only to cramp.

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