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'A' team win praise from Anderson after big effort falls short

Bedford Blues 16 Ulster 'A' 10

Proud: Ulster ‘A’ assistant coach Willie Anderson
Proud: Ulster ‘A’ assistant coach Willie Anderson

By Michael Sadlier

It was a great effort but, frustratingly, this game was there for the taking which may, in itself, ultimately outweigh the fact that underdogs Ulster 'A' took this to the wire.

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And assistant coach Willie Anderson could hardly dodge the issue after Ulster's last chance to ever win the British and Irish Cup had been extinguished again at the quarter-final stages.

While Bedford's players belted out their song from a nearby changing room, after securing an expected but clearly hard-fought victory at their Goldington Road base, Anderson praised Ulster's doggedness but could only lament their lack of accuracy in the opposition's red zone.

Had Ulster actually made off with a place in the competition's last four - and centre Angus Curtis came very close to a late try which, if converted, would have snatched the game - few could have carped that taking a step closer to making the final, in this the cup's last year, would have been an undeserved outcome.

"I thought the game was still there for the taking," Anderson observed. "We were held up (late on)," he added of Curtis getting over the line in the dying minutes.

"And that was very disappointing because if we had have scored I think we would have won the match.

"We knew they would be very good up front and that we needed to get width to our game and keep it fluid," he added.

"We had to match them up front and in fairness to the pack they were outstanding and I thought Greg Jones was magnificent, as was Clive Ross.

"We needed to keep our composure, keep our discipline and keep the ball."

The reality was that none of Anderson's trinity of essentials were delivered with sufficient consistency.

"We maybe just didn't get the width we needed to keep their pack on the move," Anderson stated before praising the squad's overall effort over the campaign.

"I said to them afterwards that we are proud of them," he emphasised, while name-checking young players Matthew Dalton, Angus Curtis, Adam McBurney, Angus Curtis and Tom O'Toole as well as the more experienced Tommy O'Hagan.

"I think the number of young fellas we've blooded, and who have really excelled, has been fantastic and that's been the most pleasing thing for Ulster going forward," Anderson added of the work done by himself and head coach Kieran Campbell.

Ulster led 10-9 at half-time after McBurney's try, from a lineout maul, had been converted by Peter Nelson before the out-half also kicked a penalty with the last play of the half.

Nine minutes into the new half, though, Bedford carved Ulster open for a converted try and that was the final score of the game despite Ulster battering away in the Blues' 22 in the closing stages with Curtis coming the closest to getting a try.

Meanwhile, in the AIL, City of Armagh's eight-try, 54-24, thumping of Blackrock College boosted their play-off hopes by moving Willie Faloon's side to within two points of fourth-placed Cashel.

Ryan Purvis bagged two tries for Armagh and Cormac Fox kicked seven conversions.

In 2B, Belfast Harlequins racked up eight tries as well as they saw off Skerries at Deramore by 56-33.

Centre Mark Glover scored four times as Quins won only their second game of the campaign and cannot dodge involvement in the relegation play-offs.

As for City of Derry, losing 15-8 to Sundays Well ensured their exit from 2B.

Ulster 'A': J Owens, A Kernohan, C Patterson, A Curtis, A Cairns, P Nelson, D Shanahan; T O'Hagan, A McBurney, R Kane (capt), M Dalton, P Browne, M Rea, C Ross, G Jones Subs: A Clarke, E O'Sullivan, T O'Toole, J Regan, M Agnew, J Stewart, J Hume

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