Rising star Rory Scholes provides a glimpse of Ulster Rugby hope
Despite Friday night's 22-21 defeat by Exeter Chiefs in the first match at the re-named Kingspan Stadium, Ulster's new rising star Rory Scholes is upbeat about facing Leinster in this weekend's Tallaght Stadium friendly.
"We're looking forward with confidence and with our heads high. We'll go into next week and try to get a win," the red-haired 21-year-old wing said.
In his sixth outing as an Ulster senior, Scholes broke his try-scoring duck to register a fine brace. His delight at having done so was plain to see after the match, albeit that losing took a little of the gloss off.
"Every time I come on the pitch I want to score, so to get my first try – my first two tries – for Ulster was brilliant," he said. "Before the game, I was thinking 'Get a try, get a try'.
"But at the end of the day it's a team thing and we lost at home. Every time we play at home we want to win for our fans, so it's a bit disappointing.
"But we're happy to get our structures and stuff out on the pitch for the first time. We've got a bit of work to do during the week for the next game; we'll get it done and see if we can improve for the next time."
Revealing that coach Les Kiss had told the players to "take your chance to get yourself in the team for the next time", Scholes said: "There are guys who put out performances that were very good and will want to play the next time.
"We all put up a fight so we'll just see how the coaches take it for next week going to Leinster."
Asked about the post-match mood in the dressing room, Scholes replied: "Obviously it was a wee bit flat because we didn't win.
"But we know it was our first hit-out and our first time getting our new structures with the new players. From that point of view we're happy that we've got that under our belt.
"The coaches were happy with our structures and all the things we'd been working on in training. We got to play those out and put them into a competitive environment, which was good.
"But there's things we can work on; we're going to have to look at the video during the week and seeing those wee things we can work on. Hopefully when we get to Leinster we can put them in place and make things a wee bit better."
The other Ulster try – sandwiched between Scholes' brace - was scored by debutant Louis Ludic. The South African, who lined out at 13, forced his way over from close range six minutes before half-time and with Ian Humphreys adding the conversion, as he did with the other two, that saw Ulster turn round leading 14-5.
The 27-year-old, who has played for Emerging Springboks, was happy to have clocked up his first appearance as an Ulster player, though like Scholes he was disappointed at being pipped at the post by the visitors.
"Personally I'm just happy that I got 80 minutes – my first time here at Kingspan. For me it was just to give my best and to leave everything on the field," he said.
"I think we did very well in the first half. Second half we just threw it away in the end – a couple of penalties, simple errors. We're going to have to look at the video on Monday and just work from there. Obviously there's a lot of senior guys coming in for the next game."
The attendance at Friday night's friendly was 13,542.
Five tries by centre Michael Cartmill helped Ulster U20's to a resounding 76-0 victory over The Exiles at Newforge. Former Dungannon Royal out-half Jack Milligan was in excellent kicking form with a 100 per cent record - 10 conversions and two penalties. The other try scorers were Stewart Martin, Conor Shiels, Sam Arnold, David McMaster and Caleb Montgomery. They now travel to London Irish on Thursday.
The Ulster U19 Inter-Provincial champions, had a tougher encounter against the Exiles, winning 15-10 at the same venue. They were 8-5 ahead at the halfway stage after Gareth Millar kicked a penalty and Zac Burtenshaw added a try. The advantage was increased with a converted Matthew Fisher try but the visitors came back towards the close.
Manager Clive Bowles stated: "The coaches were fairly pleased. There were a few errors and they opened us up wide a couple of times but these problems will be dealt with before we travel to Wales on Thursday"
Ulster Schools recorded a 20-7 win at London Irish and are in Glasgow on Friday while the U18 Youth side lost to the Exiles 18-9.