Sport Rugby

Sunday 21 January 2018

Anscombe: Key men didn't front up but we can still push for title

Scarlets 17 Ulster 9

Matt Lloyd

Mark Anscombe saw Ulster slip out of the leading pack in the Pro12 but insists they can still challenge for the title.

Ulster dropped to fifth, though they remain only six points behind table-toppers Munster.

Head coach Anscombe said: "The competition this year is going to be a tight one. Even though we are disappointed we lost, we are only (six) points off the lead.

"And the fact is there are going to be a lot of so-called upsets through the year and no one is going to run away with it. You are going to have to fight hard for away victories and we weren't good enough here."

BREAK

Anscombe admits that the forthcoming two-week break can not come quick enough for his battle-weary team that ran out of steam at Parc y Scarlets.

A run of six successive victories, including back-to-back wins in the Heineken Cup, was blown away in wind-swept west Wales, where the demands of those successes and 11 changes took their toll.

Anscombe said: "We have a couple of weeks off now and I think that will be a good thing. We had a good win last week against the Blues but it wasn't a great performance and we had a pretty average one out there again here.

"Hopefully a few days off for the boys will refresh their batteries. Players like Nick Williams looked short of a game out there.

"The first week a good few guys will have a week off and we will get them back Monday week and go about our work and get ready for Edinburgh.

"We can't control what happens in the autumn series, every team is in the same boat. You just hope the guys go well, put their hands up and perform."

It was an uncharacteristic performance from the Ulstermen, not least for their indiscipline that saw Williams escape two exchanges with Alain Rolland before David McIlwaine and Roger Wilson were both binned in the second half.

"I'm pretty disappointed. Our defence was superb but discipline hurt us," said Anscombe. "We gave a penalty that led to their try and another right at the end of the first half. We didn't build any momentum or put any phases together, we just didn't have any possession and there were two yellow cards as well.

"Discipline has previously been a strength of ours. We gave away the least penalties last year and we have been tracking well this year and then all of a sudden we have two (yellow cards) in one game. At the breakdown we just lost our way and key players didn't front up. The rest is history."

Ulster managed to stay in contention through the boot of Ruan Pienaar only for the South African to horribly scuff a chance in front of the posts that would have cut the deficit to 14-12 eight minutes from time.

But Wilson kicked out at Scarlets No 8 Sione Timani and earned a yellow card to allow Aled Thomas to kick Scarlets out of reach.

Anscombe said: "You will always bank on Ruan getting that penalty at the end and at 14-12 who knows what could happen then. But Scarlets took their chances and thoroughly deserved their win."

Scarlets – G Owen, N Reynolds, G Maule, A Warren, J Williams; S Shingler (A Thomas 37), G Davies; P John (capt), K Myhill, S Lee, J Ball, G Earle, A Shingler (J Barclay, 13), J Turnbull, S Timani.

Ulster – J Payne (capt), M Allen (D McIlwaine 61), D Cave, C Farrell, A Trimble; R Pienaar, P Marshall (J McKinney 56); C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb (M McComish 71), R Diack, R Wilson, N Williams.

Ref – A Rolland (IRFU).

Irish Independent

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