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Painful memories, burning lungs and a busted nose: Cheetahs mauling was tough for Ulster's James Hume


Upbeat: James Hume shrugs off a tackle in a physical battle with Cheetahs
Upbeat: James Hume shrugs off a tackle in a physical battle with Cheetahs

By Michael Sadlier

Some unwelcome memories of his debut made their intrusion after last Saturday evening in Bloemfontein, but James Hume had rather more immediate concerns to process.

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After all, a smashed nose, cramp, burning lungs from the thin air and his first competitive try were all writ large for the recently turned 21-year-old.

Perhaps best to explain, starting with his debut.

That first game in an Ulster shirt had been just over a year ago when a somewhat watered down squad travelled to Limerick and were roundly tanked by a record 64-7 when Hume, not long after turning 20-years-old, had arrived off the bench as Munster surged on.

You never forget your debut and it would be hard to expunge that nine-try hammering - also an unwelcome record - from the mind.

Now, Hume has experienced something similar, though this time he had been in the starting side for his 13th Ulster appearance as the Cheetahs had run riot, accumulating 63 points but also scoring nine tries.

Yet powerful centre Hume, who has been starting due to Stuart McCloskey's absence for the first two PRO14 matches, wasn't ready for gloomy reflection in the aftermath of this latest mauling, young players tend not to be so burdened by such hefty baggage anyway.

He had scored his first competitive try which had ignited the comeback of sorts, as Ulster had fought back to earn themselves a try bonus point, but most pressingly of all for Hume was the state of his badly bloodied nose and the recovery from playing his initial taste of playing at altitude.

"I was actually cramping up towards the end but then I got that head-butt to the nose," he recalled.

"My nose is now a wee bit busted," he added without elaboration on whether he might be able to feature against the winless Southern Kings on Saturday other than commenting that his issue isn't too serious.

"It's my first time here in South Africa and my first time at altitude.

"I don't know about any of the other lads but I definitely felt a difference - you're really blowing around 60 minutes in, it was very, very tough.

"Actually, it was probably the toughest game I've ever played."

Then there was that first competitive try.

"You always come away kind of feeling half-and-half if you're happy with your own performance," he said of his 58th minute burst which brought Ulster their second touchdown and first points for 33 minutes.

"But, look, the team didn't get what we wanted out of there. Obviously the team is the main priority, so that's where we hope we will get some more cohesion this week and play better," says Hume.

There is certainly ample room for improvement.

"I think it's going to be a bit different this week," says the former RBAI pupil who won three straight Schools' Cups.

"We know what happened (against the Cheetahs) and we know how to fix it.

"That's (been done in) training for us this week, to get back to normal and put in a big performance in Port Elizabeth this weekend."

While Ulster were by some way second best with their set-piece work, there were also a host of missed tackles too ensuring that the team, as a whole, badly malfunctioned last weekend.

"It was a tough (post-match video) review to go through, but the boys know what we did wrong, so we're all ready to go this week to iron out all those problems.

"Obviously it'll be easier to breathe there (not being at altitude) so that's good for us but the Kings are very similar to the Cheetahs, they're very dangerous if you let them run.

"So we have our game-plan set in place."

Ideally, it will work rather better than the last one.

Belfast Telegraph


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