Belfast Telegraph

King Henry hopes Ulster can head to league semi

By Niall Crozier

The memory of last Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Northampton has left Ulster back row forward Chris Henry wanting more such experiences. Not the defeat aspect, obviously, but the atmosphere.

For that reason he welcomes the fact that tonight’s Magners League match with Leinster at the RDS (8pm) will be another noisy, passionate, no-holds-barred affair played before a capacity crowd.

“The atmosphere last weekend was incredible. For a lot of us that was the first time we’d experienced anything like that so obviously it was a very special day.

“Those are the games we want to be involved in, so we want to be in the semi-final of the Magners League — ideally at home — which means this is a massive game both for us and them,” Henry explains.

“This week we haven’t done a lot of training. I think the challenge is going to be in our minds now — to let that defeat by Northampton go and face this new challenge.

And, there is no bigger challenge than Leinster at the RDS.”

The 26-year-old, who walked away with three individual prizes at last season’s Ulster Rugby Awards, knows Ulster tonight must match the intensity of the performance they produced against Northampton.

“Somehow we’ve got to drag ourselves up and find that massive energy we showed last week. The RDS is a tough place but sometimes it suits us when we travel as underdogs,” Henry stresses.

He has immense respect for Leinster and what they have achieved. He rates their players very highly, too.

“They’re not just an extremely physical side; a lot of teams are very physical but Leinster have the smarts as well. Throughout their team they’ve got players who know the right things to do at the right times.

“They’re very sharp at the breakdown so for us, as a back row, it’s going to be another big challenge.”

The memory of Ulster’s 30-13 home defeat by Leinster, on December 27 past, still hurts Henry and his colleagues.

He added: “The game was such a disappointment for us, especially in the back row encounter. They definitely had the upper hand on us that day as a collective, so we have to be back firing on all cylinders again to be in contention.”

Highlighting some of Leinster’s many strengths, Henry continues: “They’re very good at keeping the ball alive, they run very good lines, they call mini-plays — phase-plays — so we’ve done our homework on them.”

Ulster have progressed since that festive hangover — not least in defence.

“Our defence has moved on an awful lot and I think we’re becoming a smarter team defensively, too. But we’re going to have to make sure that we’re right on the money against them.”

Henry is determined that games like Sunday’s European Cup quarter-final and tonight’s push for a home semi-final in the Magners League will not be one-offs.

“That hunger is there now and we’ve got to make sure we remember last week and stick with that and bring it forward, not just to the end of the season but into next year, too.

“I do feel that what’s growing at the minute — as long as we all stick to it — could be the start of something and not just a one-off. That’s the last thing we want as players.

“Making a Magners League semi-final — especially at home which would make it so much more special for us and the fans, too — is the challenge now.”

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