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I'm not used to scoring tries: John Andrew ready to return to 'unseen work' for Ulster

Zebre v Ulster, Guinness PRO14 Championship: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Saturday, 2.35pm

By Michael Sadlier

So far, it has a clear head-start as the season's defining moment, John Andrew raising his fist and bellowing in celebration as he barrelled over the line to seal a late and dramatic win over the Scarlets.

A fortnight ago it had been an evening which began with the poignant tributes to Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham, and had ended with the drama of a sweeping move before Luke Marshall's long pass had picked out Andrew.

Hookers don't normally loiter around in such open spaces or, indeed, take eye-catching passes to win games, but Andrew held his nerve to claim the try and defeat the reigning champions.

It also seemed appropriate that fellow Ballymena man Marshall was the one with the spectacular assist for the younger man.

"I don't think it was the coolest of touchdowns," Andrew admits of his pumped-up reaction to only his third try for Ulster.

Somewhat embarrassed at having to revisit the occasion, the 24-year-old accepts that this score certainly trumps the other two in importance and profile.

"All the rest of them have been from about two yards out, well, not that that one (against the Scarlets) was much further out, but it really meant a lot.

"I'm not used to scoring tries and a bit of emotion came out," he adds.

As for rumours of practising the move with Luke Marshall just in case the hooker is again required to secure a game late on, well, Andrew, rightly, prefers to move on.

"I'll see what happens but maybe I'll just get stuck back into the unseen work on Saturday," he says.

Andrew seems likely to start at Zebre which, if so, will only be his fifth start in 33 appearances since making his debut in December 2014.

It hasn't been easy being third choice hooker behind Rory Best and Rob Herring, but Andrew's performances have continually improved and been notable for the energy he has brought to games when sprung from the bench.

And with Best now sidelined, this is a vital time for Andrew to show what he can offer, though he is clearly someone the province have ear-marked for the future as he is contracted up to 2020.

"It can be difficult sitting on the bench," he admits.

"But if you huff, you're not really going to take your opportunity when you get it and you need to be watching the game and be switched on, knowing what you need to provide when you come on.

"You just have to try and make an impact and make your minutes count," states the man whose brother Ricky - now a player/coach in Valencia - also played for Ulster.

"Rory (Best) is a massive influence and you can easily see what type of a leader and man he is.

"Coming back there he was doing a few scrummaging sessions and is very quick to pull you to the side and say 'try this, it might help, or do this' which from my perspective is great to learn from.

"I think I have got better as the seasons have gone on and I'd like to think I'm pushing Rob (Herring) a bit, and I try to bring the best out of him because I know if I'm not performing well he will get ahead of me more and more," adds Andrew.

So far Andrew has played his part from the bench in Ulster's four wins from four which have taken them to the summit of Conference B, but he is hungry for his shot at starting tomorrow's game at Zebre who, though they easily got the better of the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, ought to be seen off by Les Kiss's men.

"The pressure I'm putting on myself would be the same for any game because I don't get many chances to start, so it wouldn't matter who I'm playing against," is how Andrew deals with the added expectation that Ulster should win handily.

"I don't want to be sitting on the bench all the time, I just want to be starting more games."

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