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Addison keeping eyes on the ball

Scarlets 24 Ulster 25

Star man: Will Addison goes over for an Ulster try against Scarlets
Star man: Will Addison goes over for an Ulster try against Scarlets
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

For all the much deserved praise that has come Will Addison's way since he swapped Sale for Ulster in the summer, one piece of official recognition had been eluding him.

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The 26-year-old, who won his first three Irish caps last month, was arguably his side's best player in any of his first three games in a white jersey but man of the match honours kept going elsewhere.

He was again brilliant in Friday's 25-24 win over Scarlets that has breathed new life into Ulster's Champions Cup quarter-final hopes. He scored one of his side's four scores, helped create another for Jacob Stockdale, and, thanks to a clever grubber, put Ulster in position to win an early penalty that by the final whistle proved crucial.

Yet, after finally being named as the pick of the bunch, Ulster's No.13 was somewhat sheepish.

"It means a lot but I wasn't backing myself to get it," he said. "Henry Speight had probably his best game in an Ulster shirt. He was great and we're really excited to see what he can do in the few weeks he has left.

"He's been a great addition. I was delighted for him to get the try, he was brilliant out there. And you look at Louis Ludik, coming back from injury. The list goes on.

"Eric O'Sullivan putting in 80 minutes at loosehead prop, you feel a bit guilty stealing the man of the match from someone like that."

Indeed, Addison ended the game feeling further indebted to his team-mates after admitting he took responsibility for a late Scarlets break that ended only after a fine try-saving tackle from Ludik and Speight.

"It's that fight for every inch mentality," he said. "We never give up on a play, I had to apologise to the boys there, I put them in a hole there so I was grateful for them. It's that mentality that we're building and that's why I love being part of this group.

"It's great to get some of the guys who have been missing back. Louis is a real stabiliser for us."

For all the plaudits, both individual and collective, after Friday's win, Addison has stressed the need to quickly turn the page.

Every year in this competition's traditional back-to-back fixtures it seems that there is a team who produces a shock away from home only to falter against the same opposition back on their own patch.

Ulster have their own relatively recent example too.

It was in 2012 when they took a bonus-point win back from Northampton - incidentally their last five-point haul on the road in Europe against non-Italian opposition before Friday night - only to see their 13-game winning streak snapped a week later.

The side then led by Mark Anscombe still made the quarters that year but the result was the difference between hosting their last eight tie and playing it on the road.

"We're an ambitious group and the knockout stages are something that we've targeted," Addison said. "To come to one of the tougher places to go in Europe and come away with a bonus point is a testament to the group.

"There's a bit of elation there for sure but the great thing is we're looking to the next (game) already. It's a good sign of progress that we're not celebrating the win too much. It's one of our best wins to date but the eyes are on the next game and making sure we don't slip up at home because that's a massive thing for us."

For Scarlets, it will be interesting to see how they approach Friday's return fixture.

Still adjusting to life without Tadhg Beirne and John Barclay, they have also made do without Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler due to injuries.

James Davies was back in on Friday night but Jake Ball and Leigh Halfpenny were both missing to stretch the squad further.

Like Ulster, there are three consecutive PRO14 derbies to negotiate over the festive period and, with their European hopes over, there will be a case to be made for heavy rotation in Belfast.

No matter who plays, head coach Wayne Pivac has stressed his side will be looking to exact a measure of revenge on their domestic rivals.

"There's a game of rugby and there's pride at stake," said the man who will take over Wales after the World Cup. "They've hurt us at home, they've hurt our chances in this competition and we want to try and repay that debt.

"We'll have to look at the bodies and see who is available but we'll be going out there to win a game of rugby. There were some good efforts, don't get me wrong, and we need to build on that. We'll be playing to win no matter who is out there.

"For us it's about getting the performances right, improving on that performance. We've got the PRO14, which we want to do well in and we're in the running for that. We need to make sure we get the accuracy back into our game and put teams away when we get the opportunity. There's plenty to play for, we've already talked about that.

"We've three more games in this competition and we want to turn this result around."

SCARLETS: J McNicholl; T Prydie, J Davies, K Fonotia, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens (c), S Lee; L Rawlings, D Bulbring; W Boyde, J Davies, U Cassiem

Replacements: R Elias (for Owens, 69), W Jones (for R Evans, 61), W Kruger (for Lee, 59), S Cummings(for Rawlins, 24), D Davis (for Cassiem, 26), S Hidalgo-Clyne (for G Davies, 72), D Jones (for Patchell, 74), H Parkes (for Fonotia, 53)

ULSTER: L Ludik, H Speight, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; E O'Sullivan, R Best (c), M Moore; I Henderson, K Treadwell; S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee

Replacements: R Herring (for Best, 69), K McCall, T O'Toole (for Moore, 69), M Rea, N Timoney (for Reidy, 24), D Shanahan, J McPhillips (for Burns, 76), D Cave

Referee: A Ruiz

Man of the match: W Addison

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