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Cheetahs will prove tricky but conditions should suit Ulster style, says Faddes


By Michael Sadlier

As an exercise in box-ticking, Matt Faddes had been able to get busy.

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His Guinness PRO14 debut had been at his new Kingspan Stadium home and had brought a maximum-point victory on the league's first weekend.

Oh, and the 27-year-old Kiwi had even scored a try, and might have even had another too, but more of that later.

Overall, it had been a satisfactory evening's work for the former Highlanders utility back, but now he is heading straight back to the southern hemisphere with Ulster's next game coming at the Cheetahs on Saturday, before the following weekend's clash with Southern Kings.

Faddes is no stranger to both Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, neither are Ulster really, but omits to mention that in May 2017 he scored a try, and picked up a yellow card, as the Highlanders won 45-41 at the Cheetahs, while the year before he came away from the Kings having scored a hat-trick as the Kiwis swept to a 48-18 result.

"They are tough places to get a win," Ulster's new signing said before focusing on the now Ruan Pienaar-bolstered Cheetahs. "They are a dangerous side, and it's at altitude and the climate is going to be a bit different.

"Though you can't guarantee that there will be no rain, (the weather) should be nice and it probably suits our brand of footie to throw the ball around a bit."

Sounds like a plan, and Faddes' first try for Ulster, scored from full-back, was all about giving the ball plenty of width.

With time running out in the first half - and the sides locked together at 14-14 - Ulster moved the ball to Rob Lyttle's flank before it was shifted right, with Craig Gilroy's pass giving Faddes enough sight of the corner.

It proved to be a turning point, as John Cooney's conversion then had Dan McFarland's men 21-14 in front at the break.

Getting the score felt good for the native of New Zealand's South Island but, afterwards, he ended up reflecting more on the one that got away.

Though Ulster got a penalty try from the 71st-minute incident - thanks to Lyttle being shoved off the ball - Faddes had been next on the scene and, though he dived in the ball's direction, appeared via the replays to have overshot it and, therefore, lost his chance for try No.2.

"Yeah, it was touch and go," he recalled. "I did touch it, but I don't know exactly what the rules are really around downward pressure, whether it has got to be with the hands or the belly, so it was a 50-50 sort of feeling."

Thankfully, floodlight failure at one corner of the Aquinas end didn't make things uncomfortable for Faddes and his wingers as Ulster played so much of the second half in Ospreys' territory.

"You definitely noticed it," said Faddes of the light failure. "But it didn't make or break the game.

"It wasn't perfect from us, but it's only week one."

More of the same, with Faddes working so well in a back-three with Gilroy and Lyttle, will do nicely for now.

Belfast Telegraph


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