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Ulstermen can still clinch title glory, insists Chris Henry

By Michael Sadler

There's psychology at play now in addition to simply racking up a fifth straight win and, with it, a fourth bonus point from those five games.

Meeting Zebre at home in Saturday's re-arranged game with, weather-permitting, that much-needed try bonus also coming, will see Ulster leapfrog Scarlets to bring themselves up to fourth in the PRO12 table.

It will, just as long as maximum points are gained, also put Les Kiss' side four ahead of their West Wales rivals, with five regulation games to go, but the significance won't be lost on anyone as Ulster will have a foothold in a play-off position.

Without hesitation, Chris Henry said: "That's huge.

"Five or six weeks ago a lot of people had written us off so for us (to potentially get back into the top four) it's fantastic."

And the flanker who sat out last weekend's rain-lashed, and mud-spattered, non-bonus point win over Treviso isn't coy about what can yet be done to mount a decent charge at the PRO12 title.

"What an amazing achievement if we get into the top four and then push on," said the 32-year-old.

"I've seen other teams in past seasons who maybe haven't been performing and then they end up winning it.

"That would just be beautiful if we could just get the job done (and finally make off with a trophy).

"And there's no reason why (we can't), especially with the Irish boys coming back (after the Six Nations) as then we're going to be full house for the rest of the games.

"And other top four teams will be fighting on two fronts (Leinster and Munster are in the last eight of the Champions Cup while the Ospreys have a Challenge Cup quarter-final to play).

"We have the one front and that makes a difference as well."

But looming over all the current feel-good factor is the run-in against the Ospreys, Munster and Leinster - only the latter being at the Kingspan Stadium - which will provide the ultimate test to Ulster's credentials for making the knockout stages which, if achieved, still look destined to bring them another of those away semi-finals.

Still, Henry is not for turning when it comes to talking up Ulster's chances though he does point out that, not so long ago, the general outlook in camp was markedly different.

"I think we doubted ourselves after the Bordeaux home game (in the Champions Cup)," he admitted of what was Ulster's fourth straight defeat which came at the end of a grim January.

"For me, that was one of the toughest games I've played in an Ulster shirt and we had to do a lot of soul-searching after that.

"Edinburgh was edgy as there was so much pressure on us and once we got the win we've pushed on week after week."

True, the wins have been coming but the performances haven't quite hit the mark with the first meeting at Zebre seeing Ulster invite the bottom-placed Italians back into the game.

And last week, when hosting Treviso, they were far too inaccurate up front than could be wholly excused by the dreadful weather.

"This time, we've got to hold on to the ball and really take it to them. Last week (against Treviso) there was probably an issue there as well," he stated of Ulster's forward play in their last two contests.

"We have to fix those. It's all got to be about ourselves this week."

That top four place, and the surge in belief it will bring, is awaiting them.

  • Ulster v Zebre, Guinness Pro12 League: Kingspan Stadium, Saturday, 6.05pm

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