Bah! Humbug! I feel a bit like old Scrooge being disappointed with this game after another great European victory against English opposition but the game left me feeling a little deflated.
Maybe it was because I was stone cold sober as I was covering the nearby Wellington College v Lurgan College Schools Cup game that morning, popping over to the Ulster match shortly after midday.
Having the Instamatic with me I popped over to the URSC stall where I was besieged by Snow White Beard and the four dwarfs to take a picture of them with with Darren Cave for the URSC Christmas card! No sooner had I smeared a bit of Vaseline on the lens to make Kimble look younger than Snow White Beard was grabbing passing Bath supporters and the sainted Sparky for more snaps! Boy oh boy there are some lucky people out there who are going to get some interesting cards this year!
Eventually escaping I made my way over to the Prom to be greeted by a solitary member of the Boys on Tour who was anxiously waiting the rest of the travelling band convinced that the rest of the, always confused, Boys on Tour thought that it was a 3:00pm kick off.
However my attention was soon distracted from their plight as I was surrounded by the giggling Annadale Old Boys gossip group for whom the rugby was only a sideshow as they yakkedy yacked their way through the opening quarter pausing only to eloquently express their dismay as Ulster shipped their first two tries! Unfortunately my exit route was blocked by a couple of six foot something G & T swilling corporate types who decided to stand slightly to my left blocking out a good third of the pitch from my view. Fortunately it was the end that Bath were attacking so apart from their two breakaway tries I didn’t really miss much!
Fortunately the G & T’s soon got bored and went off in search of the bar and as Ulster commenced their comeback the general chat switched to whether Ulster were playing well or if Bath were just crap – with opinion split fairly even.
My own opinion was that it was a bit of both. Bath offered very little and Ulster played very well as individuals but boy oh boy did Ulster get their tactics wrong. Ferris and Wannenburg must be commended for their huge efforts but playing both together was a big mistake. Bath lined them up time and time again blunting the effectiveness of their powerful drives – even though big Stevie managed to bust through a few times and Pedrie scored the match turning try.
I’d rather, as much for his own good and longevity in the game, have seen big Stevie doing a ball busting 60 minutes with Pedrie coming on to give it more of the same. Ferris’ preponderance for running straight through the opposition rather than round them may be great to watch but the punishment his body takes is going to severely limit his career unless his game time is well managed or he develops a step. Twenty odd stone of prime Ulster beef charging at pace may be just too much for the knee joint to be able to cope with a step so match management is the key for our prime asset.
Let’s face it, it’s not as if we’re short of options in the back row at the minute with Henry, Diack and Faloon all offering plenty and I’d love to see Faloon and Diack starting the return game. Haven’t checked the match stats but Faloon appeared to make as much ground as the other two when he came on, stepping round his opponents rather than through them, and Diack is simply the best covering No 8 in the Magners League and Moody wouldn’t have got within five yards of his try as Diack would have already cleared it.
When all’s said and done Ulster must be commended for beating a Aviva Premiership side at their own game of biff, bash, bosh after an appalling start. I suspect that we’ll find the return game a bit easier if we get the tactics right and decide to run round them rather than through them.