Ulster's stunning New Year comeback was no surprise to me, insists Kiss
Director of Rugby Les Kiss says his Ulster side will continue to keep the faith after Monday's unlikely comeback victory over Munster at Kingspan Stadium.
The under-pressure province trailed 17-0 at half-time but somehow came away with a 24-17 bonus-point win after the second-half brought four tries and a red card for Munster's former Ulster centre Sam Arnold.
A Darren Cave try and a brace from Craig Gilroy secured the much-needed win, before Rob Lyttle sped over for the bonus-point score in the final minute.
After the most unpredictable of finishes, Kiss said his belief in the group has never wavered throughout a trying period, while adding that there was no secret to the dramatic turnaround.
"I mean this genuinely, it didn't surprise me, but it still had to be a choice by the lads to take control of the things in front of them," said the Australian.
"We worked hard this week. The first half was disappointing but I was really pleased by the boys' calm at half time to step into that second half and do what we had to do."
Having come into the game off the back of a record defeat to Connacht two days before Christmas, another defeat would have been a body blow for the province, but Kiss was pleased by the belated response.
“Does it make amends (for Connacht?) I don’t know. It still hits you hard when you think about it but you have to respond.
“It took us 40 minutes before we got on the bike, but it’s an 80-minute game, it’s an old saying, it’s a cliche, and this season is a number of weeks, a number of games in a competition.
“We’re still right in the hunt in both competitions so we have to keep building and believing that what we’re doing is the right thing, and that’s important to us and the boys showed that in the second half.”
While the red card was certainly a turning point, Ulster’s second-half fightback was also aided by the bench who helped fix a faltering set-piece.
Props Kyle McCall and Rodney Ah You both started after missing months through injury, and were replaced at half-time by Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst.
“At half time we knew we had to do something with the set piece and so the two changes helped. The two lads that started the game, that’s their first game in a while and it probably told. But the half time message was simple, we had to look after the ball at the breakdown and not let them have easy access to it.
“We had to get in front of the simple things and we knew if we did that we had opportunities across the pitch, and we could make some hay.”
With a short turnaround before facing Leinster in the RDS on Saturday, the challenges keep coming for the side but they will hope that skipper Rory Best and Chris Henry may return in the fixture, while the flu bug that has struck down a number of the squad should have eased by the weekend.