Tyrone Howe: Ulster have to heed lessons of stuttering win over Aironi
There was always the danger that Ulster’s match against Aironi might have an element of anti-climax after the previous week’s resounding victory over Cardiff. And so it turned out.
After the opening quarter it looked, however, as if a 50-point rout was on the cards. It was just too easy, and as Brian McLaughlin rightly pointed out, sometimes you can score too quickly and easily in a game for your own good.
Mistakes were an inevitable consequence of this dip in concentration and precision. The lineouts went awry, passes were dropped, balls were spilled and Ulster allowed themselves to be rattled. One of the crucial periods in a game — the spell immediately before half time — proved costly as Aironi registered a score which gave them hope and meant the third quarter would be a battle royal.
One hopes that a dropped bonus point will not prove costly, but the real benefit lies in the lessons some of the young players will learn. No matter what the gulf in quality, even against a limited side with guts aplenty, you have got to get the basics right to win in decent fashion.
This lesson should hopefully prove its worth in Ulster’s next game, at home to the Dragons. Another team limited in ability but certainly not lacking in fight, Ulster will be looking for the same quality start but a far greater consistency over the 80 minutes.
Qualification for the top four in the Magners looks like it will go down to the wire. Of the six matches remaining, there is a clear split, three home and three away fixtures. A full return of points at home would go a long way to securing a play-off spot. If Ulster are in the same situation again, hopefully they not be quite so profligate.