EUROPEAN RUGBY: Ulster remain in good health

Ulster's Charles Piutau and Stuart McCloskey celebrate after the win against Harlequins
Ulster's Charles Piutau and Stuart McCloskey celebrate after the win against Harlequins

Although club captain Rory Best is fighting a foot injury to be fit for Friday night’s European Champions Cup return game against Harlequins, Ulster should be able to count on the same frontline players which delivered a victory at The Stoop on Sunday.

A 17-5 win in horrendous wintry conditions over the Aviva Premiership side pushed Ulster into second place in Pool One and breathed life into their European hopes again.

But if they do not back it up in the return game of the back to back fixtures at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night it will probably mean the end of their quarter-final chances.

Director of rugby Les Kiss was delighted to see his side put in a long awaited performance to be on the money.

Having the likes of Iain Henderson, who captained the side in Best’s absence, Jacob Stockdale, John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey at the coal face made a difference.

“It’s important that the big players stand up for you.,” admitted Kiss.

“We haven’t had the luxury of having all those players available for most of the year, but the character of the team has been strong and we’ve still been able to win those games.

“We had a few more back and they delivered in this one.

“It wasn’t easy that game, it was a fair amount of points in these conditions but it took a while to get there.

“That’s what you’ve got to do. Dig deep, stay on plan and deliver in the big moments,” added Kiss.

Ulster were disappointed to concede a try at the start of the second half, but otherwise the defence had stood up stoutly - something which the side had been criticised for in some quarters recently having conceded a lot of points in games.

Kiss said: “I think it’s the nature of how teams go at times.

“Sometimes you’re not nailing everything as you’d like to.

“It’s such a simple thing from the outside to look at one or two things.

“We are doing the things internally to build something. Not everything is perfect but this team, they’re focussed, there was an opportunity for growth there and they took it.

“They know what we’re doing, they know what matters and they believe in what we’re doing. They’re building.

“We’re not about perfection, we’re about being effective and seeing what we can do.

“The more players we get back will be better for us but what we’ve done the last games, will stand up and deliver for us.

“We’ve got to go and do it again next week. We’re not kidding ourselves.

“If we want to be something in May, it’s what we do know.

“Sometimes that’s winning in the last minute, sometimes that’s overcoming an injury rate that challenges the depth and you have to stand up.

“Around the positives, there are still some real challenges but the attitude and the ethos of the boys was strong in this one,” he added.

p Leicester fullback Telusa Veainu suffered a double fracture to his jaw during Saturday’s European Champions Cup defeat against Munster and was due to undergo surgery yesterday.

The Tonga international was hurt following a collision with Munster wing Andrew Conway early in the second half at Thomond Park. Conway also went off.

“It is very disappointing,” Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor told the club’s official website, while also confirming an expected absence of several months for Veainu.

“I said immediately after the game there is a duty of care for the ball-carrier, and Telusa has been seriously injured after a collision.”