Michael Lowry’s loving life with Ulster

Ulster’s backline showed the exuberance of youth in the 24-20 bonus point win over Northampton Saints on Sunday at Franklin Gardens.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:00 am

Robert Baloucoune (aged 24), Michael Lowry (23) and recently-turned 20-year-old Nathan Doak got the tries in the East Midlands as Ulster sealed their place in the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup with a starting backline that’s average age was 22.

Lowry’s two tries and all-round performance earned him the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ accolade and the full back highlights the fun factor playing in the Ulster backline.

“We came up through the system together apart from a few guys that are a bit older than us, we’ve enjoyed each other’s company together for years, playing in school and now on to what’s the biggest stage really in Europe,” said Lowry. “It’s so much fun to play alongside your best mates.

Ulster's Michael Lowry breaks away to score his side's third try of the game during the Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A match at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton. Pic by PA.

“We can hold each other accountable when things aren’t going well and then we can enjoy the good times together as well.

“It’s a lot of learning as individuals and as a group as well, the main thing with any young backline is that we’re keen to learn and to keep improving.

“Any info that we can get on board, we’ll soak that up like a sponge and, hopefully, put that out there on the field.

“We’ve always been told to play ‘heads-up’ rugby and there’s definitely no fear factor in playing at this level.

“We all back each other to make the right decision and we back each other on the pitch and off it.”

Lowry won three Schools’ Cup prizes under the tutelage of Dan Soper at RBAI.

The Kiwi replaced Dwayne Peel as Ulster’s attack coach in the summer, after being promoted from skills coach.

“Everyone has bought into what ‘Sopes’ is bringing, we always knew from school that he’d be a great asset and now, as attack coach, we’re starting to really understand how ‘Sopes’ wants to play,” said Lowry. “I think that’s the biggest part.

“Rather than just talking about it, it’s understanding it and really going into the depths of the detail of that gameplan.”

Last season, Ulster exited the Champions Cup after losing both pool games and dropped into the Challenge Cup for the first time in their history.

Wins at Harlequins and Northampton propelled Ulster into a semi-final which they led at half-time against Leicester at Welford.

But a second-half fightback by the Tigers eliminated Dan McFarland’s side.

Lowry feels the squad is driven to right the wrongs of last season.

“We’ll always be a team that wants to consistently compete for championships and it’s never nice to exit a competition the way we did last season,” said Lowry. “We’re striving towards bigger and better things now and we’re definitely heading in the right direction.

“We took a massive learning from the Leicester game that we went out in last season.

“And we never want to experience something like that again.

“The way we lost that game, I think that’s always in the back of our heads, it’s about learning from those mistakes.

“It’s never going to be plain sailing, every success follows a loss.

“We definitely needed to take the lessons from last season into this year.”