There’s no reason to fear once-daunting trip to Ulster
A very bold statement from head coach Andy Friend could add fuel to an already fiery contest.
Ulster will host Connacht in Round 6 of the Pro 14. After a disastrous trip to Limerick last week, the Ulstermen are under pressure to get a result tonight having been torn apart at the hands of Munster. The unbeaten start to the season ended to a rival, but it was the manner of the defeat that will concern fans more than the result. They suffered the heaviest defeat in the club’s history and will need put in a performance to get repay the fans support.
Ulster conceded a whopping 9 tries to Munster in Round 5. Although they picked up injuries to key team members during the match, there can be no excuse for being emphatically outmatched in every facet of the game. Mcfarland will demand more from his side to cut out the elementary errors that made life easy for Munster.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for Ulster fans. Before Round 5 they were the unbeaten league leaders. They have showed signs of playing a more expansive game topping the league stats for completed offloads. This promise to play, and the positive approach from the new coaching staff could be crucial over time as we hope to pick up try bonus points.
Connacht come into this contest with a mixed start to the season. They have already played Leinster, Glasgow and Scarlets who all have title aspirations. They managed one win over the three big sides.
Historically, the Kingspan and previously Ravenhill, has not been a happy hunting ground for Connacht. In fact, they haven’t won in Belfast in over 50 years. Head Coach Friend’s must think they can end the dismal run, given his statement saying there’s “no reason to fear” the trip to Belfast.
This is an intriguing subplot for tonight’s game, the battle of the scrum-halves. The pair were teammates at Connacht, with Marmion preferred to Cooney. Cooney sought regular first-team action and made his way to Ulster. At Ulster, he has made the number 9 jersey his own and now the two are in direct competition for a place in the Irish squad.
The outcome of the match tonight could depend on how these two influence the game. Marmion has a more attacking style with a running game, he will be a threat around the breakdown. Cooney will look to control the tempo of the game with accurate territorial kicks and getting Ulster’s big ball carriers into the game.
Whoever can play their game better will send a message to Irish Coach Joe Schmidt and have a big say on who comes out on top in Belfast.
Connacht will hope to add insult to injury an Ulster side licking their wounds. However, when you compare the strength of Ulster’s line up against the team that played in Limerick, it is clear McFarland has prioritised this game.
Kingspan is always a difficult place for opponents to play. Ulster will provide a stern test with the inclusion of Ulster stalwart Rory Best and the return of Jacob Stockdale. I believe they will inspire the team to a bounce-back win.