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Debutant Hall happy to stake his claim for another Ulster start


Senior bow: flanker Aaron Hall was impressive on his first outing in an Ulster shirt
Senior bow: flanker Aaron Hall was impressive on his first outing in an Ulster shirt
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

It was almost a game set to be remembered for all the wrong reasons but, thanks to late intervention from Andrew Trimble, Ulster's raft of debutants against Treviso can look back on their maiden outings in the jersey with the fondness that only victory can bring.

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On a night when three academy products made their senior bow, it took the 78th minute try from Trimble for the province to avoid a second defeat of the season at the hands of Italian opposition.

Afterwards, flanker Aaron Hall admitted that a shock reverse would have taken the shine off his big day.

"Definitely, you'd be more disappointed," admitted the flanker, who had previously been turning out for Ballynahinch this season.

"But we pulled it out of the bag. First game, first win. You can't ask for more. It's always better when you win."

Having had confirmation he'd be starting only the day before, Hall led the side in tackles before being replaced late on by fellow debutant, and good pal, Matthew Dalton.

While Ulster were far from impressive, the former Ballyclare clubman was a scarce bright light.

"I just found out at the start of the week that I'd potentially be starting, and Thursday afternoon was told that I would be.

"But you have to step up and take these opportunities. It's a big step up but I enjoyed every minute.

"Coming from Ballynahinch, a few people standing round the pitch to that with thousands, was something else. It was late notice finding out I was going to be starting, but you just have to take the opportunity and enjoy every minute.

"It was exciting. The nerves were kicking in beforehand but once I got on to the pitch I was all right."

With Ulster missing almost a full match-day squad of players through injury, international call-ups and unavailability, Hall was not alone in getting a first call from director of rugby Les Kiss.

Both Malone lock Dalton and Banbridge flanker Greg Jones were used off the bench, the latter much earlier than expected.

With Chris Henry, Robbie Diack, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy and Iain Henderson all missing, Clive Ross was meant to provide the experience in a back row comprised of himself, Hall and Nick Timoney.

But when the Cork native was forced from the field in the first half after a blow to the head and replaced by Jones, Ulster's loose-forward trio had five previous caps between them.

While the unit struggled for turnovers in a game which Treviso were largely allowed to dictate, all three inexperienced forwards made their mark.

For Hall, the young composition of the team made being thrown in at the deep end a little easier.

"It was great," said the 19-year-old. "You're not there on your own, there's somebody else just as nervous as you. Me and Matthew Dalton would be quite close off the pitch anyway and it's great to be out there with him."

For the rest of the season, Hall is determined to show he belongs on this stage, while wanting to keep learning from senior figures like Chris Henry.

"It's brilliant, any questions you have Chris is willing to answer them and talk you through things. Everyone is willing to help, Robbie Diack too, he'll help you with whatever you need. I want to get back out there in the seven jersey.

"I don't know if I've done enough (to play next week) but I've tried my best and it's up to the coaches now."

Despite the win, Friday's stuttering performance allowed Leinster to leapfrog Ulster into second place in conference B after their devastatingly convincing victory over Dragons, while Scarlets continue to set the pace after their own win over Kings.

It is the Dragons who Ulster meet this week, travelling to Newport and Rodney Parade on Friday (7.35pm).

With those who started for Ireland in the win over Argentina on Saturday - Rory Best, Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson - sure to be given the week off, Kiss will be hoping for better news on the injury front.

Belfast Telegraph


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