Iain Henderson wary of history repeating in Ulster’s trophy drive

Skipper Iain Henderson is hoping Ulster can avoid the mistakes they made against Toulouse when facing Munster in the United Rugby Championship quarter-final at Kingspan Stadium next Friday night.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 7:00 am

Ulster won the right to host a last-eight contest by beating the Sharks in the final regular season league game to finish third in the table and while there are numerous advantages to playing in Belfast, Dan McFarland’s side crashed out of the Heineken Champions Cup on home soil earlier this season despite leaving France with a six-point advantage from the first leg.

“Our last home knockout game, there were a couple of switch-offs that cost us the game,” said the Ireland second row. “We have to realise at this stage of the season, as we’ve learned fortunately or unfortunately in so many years gone by, that everything is on the line in a knockout game.

“One split-second poor decision can turn the whole game around, potentially turn the whole season around.

Ulster's Iain Henderson. Pic by PA.

“We’ve got to be planning and preparing for all those moments as possible, it’s frustrating that we’re still carrying that frustration from that European game but we know after we put that to bed we’re fully-focused on winning this competition.”

Munster completed a league double over Ulster this season, including a 24-17 tally when the sides met at Kingspan Stadium in April.

“We prefer to play here than an away game, obviously there are away fixtures that we’d rather play than going to South Africa,” he said. “It could have been a lot more difficult but it could have been a lot more difficult in terms of other fixtures too.

“We have really great support here, we’ve fans that come here week in, week out and every team that comes here recognises that.

“We want these knockout games at home for our supporters and to have that noise behind us, that’s something we really enjoy, having them behind us, it’s a big motivation for us as well.”

Munster have failed to trouble the trophy engravers since 2011, while Ulster’s silverware drought has been 16 years.

Henderson has been in the Ulster squad for a decade, after making his debut against Connacht in April 2012, so feels it is time for the side to repeat their domestic triumph of 2006.

“Obviously it would be incredible to see us winning something, a lot of that for me would be to see the younger guys winning something,” he said. “They’ve put in so much over the last few years and, seeing them progressing, it would be great to get them into a winning habit or winning mentality.

“It would be great to see those guys who are born, frustratingly, after the millennium, to be winning stuff.

“To set them off at the start of their careers winning trophies would be phenomenal, for us lads (Rob Herring and Henderson) it would be something that we’ve been working towards and aspiring towards for a long time, not through lack of trying but a run of very frustrating games, frustrating knockout losses.

“It would be phenomenal, the highlight of our careers, if we were able to do something special this year.”