Anscombe rap for ref... and also for team
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe was an unhappy man last night – gutted at his players' lacklustre display which saw them beaten in the first match of the new season and equally upset at some of the decisions made by Italian referee Claudio Biessano.
"Poor performance, not playing very smartly, playing at the wrong end of the park and not able to cope with a game played with some enthusiasm and purpose," Anscombe summed up.
"We stood back and waited for things to happen and they didn't and then we lost our composure," was his assessment of where it had gone wrong.
"I thought there was some very poor refereeing and that's frustrating. How do you have a scrum that marches them 10 yards backwards and your tight-head prop gets penalised? Wow, that's a new one on me," Anscombe said, the anger showing in his eyes.
"Some of his breakdown calls were appalling, but anyway, that's life," the New Zealander shrugged.
But there was no attempt to blame all of what went wrong on the Italian's handling of what was only his third time in charge of a RaboDirect PRO12 game. Instead most of the coach's concern stemmed from his team's failure as individuals and collectively. In truth no-one in white enhanced their reputation.
In contrast to his criticism of the referee he was magnanimous in his praise of the Dragons.
"They thoroughly deserved it. They played with energy and we weren't smart enough," he said.
"In the first half we played in the wrong end of the park and at half-time we talked about them being happy to accumulate points in threes, so we had to play at the right end of the park and we didn't do it. Simple."
He did not miss and hit the wall in making the point that Ulster's players will have much soul-searching to do in the coming week before squaring up to Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill on Friday night.
"If we play like that against Glasgow they'll put 30 points on us," he warned.
Skipper Johann Muller was equally forthright.
"There are no excuses and I'm not going to blame anybody," he said. "At the end of the day we got beaten by a side who wanted it more than us. They outsmarted us and they played with a lot of passion. They defended outstandingly and all credit them – they deserved to win that game.
"We've just got to take it on the chin and make sure that we get back to Belfast on Monday and fix it. I was happy with the line-out drive and the scrum in the first half and I honestly don't know what happened in the second half or why there was such a difference from a penalty point of view when we were still dominating like we did in the first.
"We've got to take it on the chin and make sure that when we come out next week against Glasgow we can try to fix it."
Anscombe sought to put things in perspective by saying: "It's one match and leagues aren't lost as a result of one defeat."