Belfast Telegraph

We must find higher gear or trophy dream will end, warns Henry

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Chris Henry has warned that the province will win nothing this season unless their performances improve. Les Kiss' men currently sit fourth in the PRO12 table after Sunday's disappointing 21-20 home loss to Scarlets, with the flanker saying that the campaign will not end with silverware unless they pick up their game.

"If we want to be contenders this year, our performances have got to improve," he said after the weekend defeat that saw the Welsh region leapfrog them in the table.

"We're obviously very disappointed. You never want to lose your home games.

"We set out to win in front of our own crowd and unfortunately we didn't pull it off."

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, the Malone man's back-row colleague Roger Wilson, who became only the second member of Ulster's 200 appearances club, said the defeat must be a "wake-up call" for the side and Henry agreed with the assertion.

"It was Roger Wilson's 200th cap and definitely not what he deserved," he said.

"He said we've been winning games without great performances so maybe this was the kick that we needed to regroup.

"I think it's a game we could have won; there are definitely aspects of it that we won't be happy with - our scrum at the end, our maul didn't really get going and we were passive in our defence at the start.

"When you miss tackles and fall off tackles it gives a side like that a bit of momentum.

"We haven't been starting games well and it was the same again. We didn't really kick on. Overall we're very, very disappointed."

Ulster's players are back in training today ahead of Sunday's trip to face Cardiff on the artificial surface at the Arms Park with the squad having been warned to prepare for a tough video review this morning.

Still well placed for a play-off push with seven games remaining - and with two of the three sides above them yet to visit Belfast - Henry says it's important the province put last weekend quickly in the past and ready themselves for two crucial clashes before a fortnight break.

"There'll be tough meetings for us this week when we regroup but you have to try and stay positive," said the 31-year-old.

"We're still close to the top of the table so we have to stay focused and there are definitely points over the next couple of weeks that we need to be grabbing.

"Cardiff is a tough place to go, especially that pitch whenever you're not used to it.

"No doubt there'll be a lot of running on that sort of surface so we have to recover quickly and get back."

In a game of few plus points, Henry admitted he was relieved to come through unscathed after making his first start in almost two months.

Having been a regular in Joe Schmidt's Ireland squads when available, a persistent shoulder complaint saw him miss out on selection in the initial Six Nations group - and it was Jordi Murphy who was called up yesterday to replace Sean O'Brien - but he is looking forward to logging consistent game-time for Ulster.

"That's the one positive for me," he said of the 80-minute shift.

"I think I got through it okay. Hopefully I just need a run of games.

"There were certain aspects of my game that I was happy with and others that I was not.

"I've got plenty to work on, as the whole team does. I'm glad to get through injury-free."

Hooker Rob Herring may recover in time from a hamstring complaint to feature this weekend, while the rested Sean Reidy should return to the panel, but Kiss will again have to wait and see which, if any, of his Ireland contingent are returned.

Belfast Telegraph


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