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Darren Cave: Ulster can hold their heads high but have to take next step to separate themselves from sides of the past

 

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Ulster's players are not content to be nearly-men, says Darren Cave.

Ulster's players are not content to be nearly-men, says Darren Cave.

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ulster's players are not content to be nearly-men, says Darren Cave.

Ulster hero Darren Cave has challenged the current squad to keep striving in a bid to end the province's trophy drought.

Dan McFarland's side were beaten 27-5 by the unstoppable force of Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 final.

They had been hoping it could be the night a 14 year wait for silverware was brought to an end.

After a bright start, when a fourth-minute James Hume try opened the scores, Leinster roared back to secure a routine success, continue their unbeaten season and claim their third successive crown.

"I think Ulster can hold their heads up high," said Cave on Premier Sports. "They gave absolutely everything. But they were beaten by a better team, the best side of the night and across the season. They can be proud of the effort they put in.

"They are in a reasonably tough position as a group where they don't want to accept being runners-up, coming short. But how do you beat (Leinster)? Ulster just need to vary up their attack a bit. They don't have enough big ball carriers to play the game they want to play at times."

After the game, captain Iain Henderson reiterated Ulster's desire to reach the top and Cave says silverware is a must if they're to become a special generation.

"They are in a reasonably tough position as a group in that they don't want to accept being losers - not winning," he said. "Ultimately they've come up short, it's the same as the other teams that have come in the past 10 years.

"They've still got to look at this as a missed opportunity but to completely contradict myself, how do you beat that team?

"Will they be kicking themselves? I think they'll be watching that game back saying they need to vary some thing in their attack and don't have enough big ball carriers to play the game they want to play sometimes but Leinster are just such a tough team to beat.

"I've never seen a more subdued reaction (to winning a tournament). I'm not sure if the (lack of a) crowd played into it. Look at them - does that look like a team that's just won a trophy?

"They're not thinking about how to beat Saracens next week. I've never seen a team so ruthless and relentless. They never have a bad day."

While Leinster take on the reigning European champions, Ulster will be in France to play Toulouse in their own Champions Cup quarter-final - a game that Cave is not optimistic for.

"Ulster would have happily won tonight and lost next week," he explained. "I think a lot will have gone into this next week. We did see an emotional response and a lot went into it. To pick themselves up and go over to Toulouse is going to be seriously tough but fingers crossed they can turn it around."

Belfast Telegraph