Sunday 22 July 2018

Ulster's Best enduring a horror win-less run in white

An ankle injury has hampered Best of late; perhaps his re-emergence may fire on his erratic squad. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
An ankle injury has hampered Best of late; perhaps his re-emergence may fire on his erratic squad. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

One startling statistic underlines just how dismal Ulster's perennial inability to challenge for silverware has become.

Their captain Rory Best has not appeared in an Ulster winning side since December.

December, 2016, that is.

Shane Long wasn't the only Irishman burdened by an embarrassing sporting drought in 2017; at least his has ended, for now.

Best has had excuses; international duty, touring with the Lions, IRFU player management and injury woes have conspired to restrict him to just three appearances this term.

A defeat to La Rochelle and a humbling draw away to Dragons and, an ominous sign as his side renew acquaintance with Leinster, a home defeat to their Irish rivals.

Best played just six games after Christmas last season; losing five and drawing one; so victory against Connacht on December 23, 2016, was the last time he tasted success in an Ulster shirt.

Little wonder he has spoken out recently about how his side's internationals need to up their effort in white, all this in a week when their assistant coach, former Leinster hooker Aaron Dundon, referred to some of the squad as "passengers".

Famine

Dublin will not be a venue where Best may hope to end his famine; after all, the northerners have sacked the RDS citadel just once this century.

An ankle injury has hampered Best of late; perhaps his re-emergence may fire on his erratic squad.

Even though he will be joined by big guns Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale, few would bet against Leinster completing a hat-trick of festive interprovincial successes.

"It's plain and simple, if we don't turn up it will be a long day at the office," says back-row Sean Reidy ahead of tomorrow's clash as Ulster seek to build upon the second-half revival against Munster last Monday, not the humiliation in Galway or dire opening half which followed.

"The boys are ready, the boys are pumped and the boys are going to take a good and physical attitude down there," added Reidy, who has been involved in all but three games this season.

"Our set-piece wasn't good enough (against Munster) but then the positive thing was that after half-time we sort of turned it around and got the result in the end," he said. "So we're looking to really come out strong.

"There have been patches this season when we've been a bit sloppy, but I think we're making progress. We don't listen to anything from the outside.

"We just get on with our job and do the best we can. And we know it's going to be a tough day but we're ready to go down there and do it."

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