Dan Soper’s sights on ‘mixed bag’ in key win for Ulster
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Ulster will know exactly what they will have to do when they face Edinburgh at Kingspan Stadium on Friday to clinch the runners-up spot as the Stormers kick off against Benetton two hours before Dan McFarland’s side take the pitch.
Ulster are a point clear of the South Africans and if the Belfast side finish second they would have the right to host a semi-final provided they win in the last eight.
Despite scoring six tries against the Dragons, assistant coach Dan Soper wasn’t happy with aspects of the Ulster performance – especially some of the tries they conceded against the second worst team in the competition.
“It was a mixed bag...some really excellent stuff at times and other times we were a bit loose, they got at our breakdown, it was a mixed bag but we got the job done and got the five points and we’re pleased about that,” said Soper. “At times we weren’t quite clinical enough with the ball, I think Gilly’s (Craig Gilroy) over twice and both tries are ruled out.“There were lots of good things and evidence of good things we’d been working on but probably not just quite clinical enough from the attack side.“Talking to Dinger (Jonny Bell), he was disappointed with some of the defence, we had a couple of really good sets after half-time but he was pretty disappointed that we gave them access that was a bit soft and probably didn’t exit out of our own area as well as we would have liked as well, especially considering the conditions ended up being pretty good.”
The Dragons got to within a converted try of Ulster going into the last quarter before too late tries finally extinguished their fire.
“They kept on task and that makes it a bit nervy but John Andrew's impact when he first came on, his first touches were pretty nice, Ethan's (McIlroy’s) first touch was nice for the break on that wee line-out play.”“We felt we had plays in us that could have got scores but at times we weren’t clinical enough to put the foot on the throat for long enough periods of pressure.”
Grand Slam-winning prop Tom O’Toole was forced off with injury.
“I would guess that he's on crutches as a precaution, that first 48 hours is about making sure no more damage is done as much as anything,” said Soper. “If Tom was bad that would be a big blow, a big loss but we'll not panic yet, we'll see the exact extent of things and hope we got him off before too much damage was done.”
Rory Sutherland, Rob Herring and Rob Baloucoune missed out through injury but Soper is confident they will be ready for the run-in.
“Those guys, they were minor things, if it was a quarter-final, we would have hoped that they would have got to the game...we didn't want to take that risk,” he said. “We've had quite a good record, only three on the (injury) list the week before, we've a lot of good guys waiting for a chance.”