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RaboDirect Pro12: Ulster have to start playing it cool: Marshall

It was one of those horrible moments and yet it brought considerable definition to Ulster’s second unsuccessful night in south Wales.

The game against the Dragons was still in its early stages when the ball was moved right off a scrum and he collected it only to promptly drop the thing just when it looked as if something might be on.

It showed that even the most experienced back in a white shirt at Rodney Parade was hardly immune to the errors that infected Ulster’s performance, but Paul Marshall has reacted like the seasoned professional he is by absorbing the lesson and putting in extra work on certain aspects of his game to ensure there is no repeat against Treviso on Friday.

“Simple errors cost us,” the 26-year-old scrum-half says and you could hardly quibble with the statement.

“We went in trying to play our own game and maybe at times we were just a bit off the money.”

“We dropped a few balls and missed a few tackles,” he adds before addressing the issue that maybe Ulster were found wanting at both the Ospreys and Dragons by simply trying to play too much rugby and not investing sufficiently in a more conservative gameplan.

“Ah, yeah, it’s a hard one... certainly at times we should have looked for territory.

“But it’s one of those ones that if you try to play a bit more and it comes off, and you score tries, you’ve done the right thing and if you don’t then maybe you should have played a bit more territory.”

Though the penalty count against the Dragons was considerably less than the 20-odd that were awarded against them at Liberty Stadium, Ulster’s discipline still let them down last Friday night and this situation, Marshall feels, is emblematic of the side trying to push things when calmer heads would be more beneficial.

“I think sometimes whenever it’s not quite happening for you, you try and force it a bit.

“That’s maybe when we just need to hold our ground and be a bit more patient.

“We gave the Dragons and the Ospreys just too many chances to rack up easy points and before we knew it we were really chasing the games.”

Looking ahead to the Treviso clash, Marshall said: “Being at home is a big advantage, it’s a tough place to come over to Ravenhill and we need to make sure we enforce that for the Italians in the first 10-15 minutes and we really get wired into them.

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“If we’re not physical enough we’re going to struggle.”

With 56 appearances for Ulster behind him, since making his debut as a sub against the Dragons in September 2006, Marshall knows that experiencing two defeats from five games does not constitute a crisis.

But, with no game until the Scarlets clash, on October 29, it is vital Ulster sign off this segment of games with a win behind them.