Mark Ansccombe tips hat to his Ulster players after battling performance

Johann Muller talks to his team after the Heineken Cup Quarter-Final between Ulster Rugby and Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast.
Johann Muller talks to his team after the Heineken Cup Quarter-Final between Ulster Rugby and Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast.

Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe, tipped his hat to his players for the way they reacted and performed having gone down to 14 players after just four minutes of their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens.

The Ulster supremo looked on gobs macked with Director or rugby, David Humphreys as fullback Jared Payne was sent off after just four minutes.

“Obviously the sending off changed the whole game,” said Anscombe.

“When you lose a pretty important player four minutes into the game you are always going to have your back against the wall.”

His take on the decision was: “It was a collision in the air. Did it warrant a red card? I think we were pretty hard done by.

“I think the emotion of the injury can create the penalty.

“Obviously we hope the player (Alex Goode) is okay because you never like to see any player getting injured and stretchered off.

“At worst I think the decision was a yellow card. A red card four minutes in to the game and we were obviously going to be chasing our tails.”

Ulster also lost Rory Best after 12 minutes and Ruan Pienaar struggled from the seventh minute when he took a knock to a shoulder injury which had kept him sidelined for the previous two weeks.

Anscombe heaped praise on his players in spite of suffering a second back-to-back quarter-final defeat against the odds.

“I take my hat off to the boys. To hang in there and actually be taking the game to them at 15-17 in the final minute is testament to everyone single one of them,” said Anscombe.

“They have to be proud of their efforts and the work they did today to keep the game at that score.

“And who knows on another day we might have got a penalty at the end and we would be in here with smiles on our faces with a one point victory - that is just how close it was and that is what makes it harder to take,” added Anscombe.

The sending off obviously has a major impact on the outcome of the game, in spite of Ulster’s brave efforts, and the head coach agreed with the suggestion that his team were out of a tournament which was not all their own making.

“When you have a great moment like today that was set up with two good teams, great weather and a great stadium, everyone was set for what should have been another great European occasion.

“The best players were out there today in both teams and that is what you want in the big matches like this.

“You want 15 against 15 and let the best team come through.

“When you see someone lose a player in the first few minutes it deprives the match and takes that bit off the occasion.

“When it was not a cynical thing that the player did and I do not think anyone could say that, it changes the whole mind set of the game.

“It is so disappointing for a game like this.” Said Anscombe.