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Ulster's Rob Herring gets over his nerves to give first rallying speech at Newport Gwent Dragons win

By Jonathan Bradley

While all was well that ended well in Ulster's opening PRO12 win over Dragons on Friday night, Rob Herring's captaincy was barely 10 minutes old when it faced its first major challenge.

The Irish-capped, South African native led his adopted province on 15 occasions last season when Rory Best was absent but will skipper the side, along with Andrew Trimble, on a permanent basis this year.

Having already stated he is the type more keen to lead by example than rousing speeches, he found himself underneath the posts early on against Dragons, needing to rally a team down 8-0 against unfancied visitors.

"It obviously wasn't the start we wanted, but credit to the Dragons," he said. "They came at us hard early on and they scored a good try.

"I just said that we had to press the reset button. We started over and made sure we got the next score. I think the boys responded well and the second 20 minutes of the first-half was a lot better."

Despite his past experience in the role, Herring admits that leading out the side on Friday brought additional nerves.

"It's always massive leading the team out and you always feel that extra bit of nerves," said the 26-year-old. "There were a few more butterflies than normal in the morning, I struggled to eat, but I enjoy it. I'd worry more if I wasn't nervous, to be honest. I think it adds to the performance."

Herring, though, will not have been the most anxious man in the stadium as kick-off approached.

That accolade surely would belong to Ross Kane, not that you would have known from his performance. The Academy product - a Schools' Cup winning captain with Methody in 2013 - was thrown into the firing line after injuries to props Wiehahn Herbst, Ricky Lutton, Rodney Ah You and Johnny Simpson, but held his own throughout his senior debut.

After two early scrums to test his mettle, Herring was not surprised by the performance of the young man packing down alongside him.

"Ross came in and did well, but I wasn't shocked," added Herring. "He's a strong lad, he's got a brilliant attitude and he worked hard. He came in and did the job I expected him to. It's an eight-man effort and the back-five in particular did really well. I knew if we could provide a platform up front then we have a back five who love scrummaging."

Despite the strong showing from Kane and a competitive debut from superstar Charles Piutau, Friday's game belonged to only one man - Ruan Pienaar.

At the end of a week when it was announced he would be leaving the province at the end of this season, the Springbok scrum-half produced a man of the match performance that saw him create one try and score another.

With the crowd making their feelings known regarding the IRFU enforced exit, the 32-year-old admitted the last week had been draining.

"Emotionally it's been a tough week for me and my family," he said. "But it was pleasing to get the win and great to get the reception that I did. I've been here for so long I feel part of the furniture. I love this club, I love this city and all the people. It meant a lot to me

"It's all about the team for the next 10 months while I'm still here. For me, it's about enjoying the time left I have in this jersey. It's been special the last six seasons and it would be massive for myself and the team to have something to show at the end."

Belfast Telegraph


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