Saturday 16 February 2019

On-song Treadwell desperate to reach promised land

Ulster's Kieran Treadwell celebrates at the final whistle following the match against Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ulster's Kieran Treadwell celebrates at the final whistle following the match against Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Michael Sadlier

All the grafting on the training paddock and around the gym has clearly been paying off. After all, this has, so far, been a strong season for Kieran Treadwell.

We have already encountered Treadwell setting up tries, his lung-burning burst against the Dragons in October helping put Stuart McCloskey away, and scoring them, as was seen against Cardiff Blues at the start of December, but the tackles have been going in too.

You would hardly expect a towering lock to be putting down many back-three players but there he was, last Saturday, with Simon Zebo in his sights. The assumption would have always been that there was only one winner in that contest.

But Treadwell is anything but run of the mill. He sized Zebo up last weekend as early as the 18th minute and pulled off a great tackle on the former Ireland and Munster player just as he was contemplating making an impact for Racing 92 who, at that point, were 13-0 down.

Treadwell's performances have been getting more noticeable of late which is some going considering he has been involved in all but one Ulster's games this season.

Contact

Though maybe not as abrasive in contact as regular second-row partner Alan O'Connor, the athletic Treadwell (below), who was born and raised in Surrey, has those extra dimensions to his game which have helped bring the 23-year-old, Irish-qualified player, three international caps.

Though his last Ireland appearance was in November 2017 when he came off the bench against Fiji, suggesting he is hardly featuring too largely on Joe Schmidt's radar, Ulster have been benefiting from the improving accuracy and energy of his work.

Not that Ireland issues are concerning him now anyway, rather the need to win at Leicester Tigers on Saturday to ensure that Ulster get through to Europe's last eight for the first time in five years.

Funnily enough, Treadwell is clearly wary of this game and doubtless recalls how Ulster's European season badly unravelled on the final day of pool games last year at Wasps, resulting in the double-whammy of crashing out of the competition and finishing Les Kiss's time at the Kingspan.

Still, at least his parents will be in attendance at Welford Road to, hopefully, witness something special for their son, who joined Ulster in the summer of 2016 from Harlequins.

"It's not really something I think about," he says when asked if going back to play in England is a factor in how he is approaching this contest.

"The only good thing (about playing in England) is that my parents get to go and watch the game, which is important for them."

As for him, well, winning and getting to taste knockout rugby in Europe is a pretty big incentive from what will be his first time playing at Welford Road after previously visiting there as a travelling sub.

"It would mean everything to get to the quarter-finals," Treadwell directly states, before getting quickly back on message.

"But we are a team that focus week on week and nothing really changes week on week. We know what Leicester bring but we do focus on ourselves."

Triumph

Even though the Tigers are out of the running, they have a chance, should they triumph, of not finishing bottom of Pool 4.

"Leicester have (like Racing) a massive pack," says Treadwell.

"They are powerful but probably don't have as much of an off-loading game as Racing.

"We have got to prepare ourselves to be ready for the physical battle up front."

He also does the basics pretty well too. Robert Baloucoune's try last weekend, Ulster's first of the afternoon, was forged from Treadwell's lineout win before the ball was given width.

Backing it all up is now the key as Ulster continue functioning without key forward Iain Henderson.

"That was a big win for us," Treadwell admits of the Racing result before dealing with Saturday's challenge.

"It is going to be a tough place to go and get the win, but we have to focus on ourselves. The job is only half done. We have the second half done to get done on Saturday."

Irish Independent

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