Ravens must gain revenge to keep them in the chase
With one win to their names after three games, Ulster Ravens will be going all out to salvage their already rather fragile looking hopes of making the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals when they host Ayr tonight at Deramore (kick-off 7.30pm).
Even if qualification ultimately proves to be beyond the Ravens' grasp, there is still currently plenty to play for and coach Allen Clarke will also be eager for his charges to produce a winning display tonight, in this second back-to-back clash, to exact revenge for last weekend's shock 41-22 defeat at Ayr which has left the Ravens bottom of the pool six.
Clarke has made two alterations to his starting side for this inescapably must-win encounter with hooker Paul Jackson – brother of Paddy – and winger David Busby swapping their bench roles from last week with Jonny Murphy and Ross Adair respectively while Paddy Wallace continues his comeback but hands over the captaincy to prop Ricky Lutton.
The side is again a mix of youth and experience and is bolstered once more by Wallace's presence along with Ulster squad members Ricky Andrew, Peter Nelson, James McKinney and Michael Heaney at full-back, left wing, out-half and scrum-half respectively.
McKinney is certainly determined to put last weekend's experience in Scotland behind him.
"We're now looking to go out and win all three games," he said.
"We have two home games (leaders Cornish Pirates are still to visit) and a trip to Jersey and we'd like to think that the home games would be winnable, but we know they are all big challenges and that the Pirates are strong and Jersey are good too.
"It's a tough group and Ayr will be coming here pretty buoyed by last week, but they are coming to our home and we're looking to get a result to get back in the race," McKinney added.
Poor execution and a high error count undid the Ravens last week, but McKinney is hopeful that these glitches have been sorted.
"We went across there with quite a young team and a few experienced heads," he says referring to last week, "but it didn't work out. The conditions weren't great but handling errors and missed tackles hurt us and we know we need to be more precise.
"We haven't gone into this week thinking 'we can't get out of it'," McKinney maintained.
"Having those back-to-back games gives us a chance to fix things straight away," he added.
Ulster Ravens: R Andrew, D Busby, S McCloskey, P Wallace, P Nelson; J McKinney, M Heaney; K McCall, P Jackson, R Lutton (capt), M Rea, M Campbell, C Joyce, F Taggart, A Hamilton. Replacements: J Murphy, A Macklin, J Atkinson, D Dass, D Shanahan, R Adair, A Liddell