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We'll go all out to halt Ulster's recent slide, vows Pienaar

By Jonathan Bradley

On a weekend when Ireland produced a performance to be remembered forever, Ulster had a night to forget in Edinburgh after losing 28-17.

The province lost for a third consecutive outing in the Guinness PRO12 - their worst such run since dropping four on the bounce in 2011 - and scrum-half Ruan Pienaar admitted they let themselves down on Friday.

"We came here with one mission, to get four or five points. We have let ourselves down," said the influential scrum-half who already knows this will be his last season in the city he has called home since 2010.

There are two free weekends in the PRO12 to accommodate the remainder of the Autumn Internationals with Ulster's next fixture the visit of Zebre on November 25.

"Sometimes you go through a slump like this and its not easy for the fans but even more so for the team," said the 32-year-old. "We have three weeks now until the Zebre game to address what we need to work on, where we want to go as a squad.

"We need to step it up. There's an important block of games coming after this break. We need to play well, perform well, and get points on the board."

Still sitting fifth in the standings but now eight points off table-topping Leinster, Ulster's poor run of four losses from five in all competitions comes after they reeled off five straight victories to start the season.

"Physically I don't think we have fronted up the past couple of weeks," he said. "Particularly at the breakdown where we have normally been quite accurate, for some reason we are struggling.

"I felt that we physically weren't up there and got bullied by a hungry Edinburgh team.

"It's a massive disappointment but we'll keep our heads up, keep working hard to get back to the level that we know we're capable of. We are a team that want to play with tempo, create momentum and get our exciting outside backs going but that's something that we're struggling with."

Against a side smarting from an embarrassing home loss to struggling Zebre last time out, skipper Rob Herring agreed with his compatriot's assessment that Ulster had been outmuscled.

"They obviously had a tough loss last week and came out firing," he said. "In the first 20 or 30 minutes we didn't stand up. We let them dominate.

"It's pretty clear to see (physicality) is something we lacked. There were a couple of dodgy throws in the line-out and they read it well in the right spots. They made it difficult.

"We couldn't get the maul going again and we need to look at that going into next month."

The visitors had trailed 28-3 early in the second-half, some semblance of respectability only brought to proceedings after the replacements were introduced.

Paul Marshall's arrival brought some belated tempo while Jacob Stockdale and debutant Aaron Cairns both crossed for tries in a futile chase to collect even a losing bonus point.

"We can't wait until the 60th minute to switch on," said Herring. "It's got to be there for a full 80. We had asked a lot of questions of ourselves after the last few weeks. We really thought we were ready to step up."

Herring says the squad are not lacking in confidence ahead of a crucial run of fixtures before the New Year.

"We always back ourselves and we know what we can do," he added. "You look at that game and take the physicality out of it, key moments let us down. That's something we have to fix. We can let this derail our season or we can kick on."

Belfast Telegraph


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