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Ulster might not be so lucky if we leave it late again: Reidy

Harlequins v Ulster, Champions Cup Pool Three: The Stoop, tomorrow, 7.45pm

Fine margins: Sean Reidy leaves Harlequins’ Michele Campagnaro in his wake to score in Ulster’s narrow win at the Kingspan Stadium last weekend
Fine margins: Sean Reidy leaves Harlequins’ Michele Campagnaro in his wake to score in Ulster’s narrow win at the Kingspan Stadium last weekend

By Michael Sadlier

It seems reasonable enough to start with that kick, you know, the nerve-jangling one that rescued Ulster's European season last Saturday.

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While Stuart McCloskey has admitted to taking the option of not looking as John Cooney lined up his long-range shot, with so little time left to play, Sean Reidy wasn't for that.

When he saw the contact Reidy knew it looked like it had the legs and that his next move was to just get his head around the all-important restart.

With McCloskey's evidently nervy disposition, it was just as well the centre who was awarded man of the match wasn't actually watching as Cooney gathered himself to hit the ball towards the posts.

As Reidy explains, Ulster's scrum-half had rather more to contend with than the intense pressure of knowing that this kick would not only edge Ulster in front, after battling back from being nine points behind, but probably also secure them a vital win from the first of the back-to-backs with Harlequins.

"I was (standing) right beside him," the 30-year-old Kiwi said.

"The ball was actually moving with the wind and it nearly went off the tee and then he waited until the gust stopped.

"That was good and, yeah, I've got faith in him," he added of Cooney's accurate finish.

McCloskey now features again, though this time with more input than turning away from Cooney's 78th minute strike.

The centre was the provider for Reidy's first half try which, yet again, came from a piece of heads-up play via Billy Burns.

With a penalty coming Ulster's way, Burns fired out a cross-kick over to McCloskey who caught the ball and drew the attention of two defenders, allowing the flanker take the off-load unmarked and with a run-in to score the home side's initial try of the game.

So, a planned move or just heat of the moment stuff?

"It was just off the cuff. Billy does quite a lot of those cross-field kicks and us 'loosies' (back-rowers) find ourselves in the wide channels quite often so it was just by chance.

"I didn't have to do anything really but just walk it over the line," he recalls.

It was quite a game. Yet again, Ulster dug the result out, as has been pretty much the case in all three European games, and now lead the pool as they prepare to play at the Stoop tomorrow.

Reidy put in another typically industrious shift last weekend and, so far, the two-times capped Ireland player has been involved in all 10 of Ulster's games which demonstrates his overall value to head coach Dan McFarland even though there was no avoiding the fact that Ulster had it pretty tight up front.

Quins, had the game's dominant forward in No.8 Alex Dombrandt, though Chris Robshaw wasn't too far behind in that regard, and the province's breakdown work was nowhere near as effective as it ought to have been.

Reidy doesn't attempt to smoke-screen the issues, which again included several scoring chances being wastefully butchered, and all have been pointed out to the group by a dissatisfied coaching team.

"We know we weren't at our best at the weekend," says the player with 115 Ulster appearances behind him.

"We've had a pretty harsh (post-match) review and we've got to improve on a lot of things.

"We left a lot of points out there and probably got dominated at the breakdown.

"Our work-on this week is going to be physicality, especially around that breakdown area. They slowed up our ball and got a lot of turnovers."

An old hand at the Champions Cup back-to-back games - he was involved in both matches between the sides back in December 2017 when Ulster came through with two wins - the Kiwi essentially sees games three and four as totally different occasions rather than an extension of the previous weekend.

More importantly, this round four is about trying to win away and with rather more to spare than last Saturday and, indeed, from the group opener at Bath.

"We just about got away with that (last weekend). We know if we produce that again over there they'll probably beat us."

Still, he can hardly ignore the situation in the group which sees Ulster still top after winning three from three, to sit one point ahead of Clermont Auvergne. Another win would be huge for the province.

"We really must start kicking on now," Reidy states.

"We've gone over there and fronted up before, but the job is not even half done yet."

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