GUINNESS PRO12: Performance has to improve insists Ulster’s defence coach Joe Barakat

Callum Black who scores his first Ulster try on his 100th appearance for the club
Callum Black who scores his first Ulster try on his 100th appearance for the club

Ulster will look to make home advantage count in their quest to stay top of the Guinness PRO12 table next weekend.

The Irish Province remained top of the pile after round 14’s series of fixtures although their one-point advantage is gone and they are only top of the ladder on points difference from Connacht.

Munster slipped up at home yesterday to Ospreys which saw them lose further ground - although they remain in sixth place, three points behind the Welsh victors in Cork.

It has been a tough couple of weeks for Ulster with few lauding the fact they are top and most turning focus on the performance of the narrow wins over NG Dragons (17-15) a week ago and Friday’s 13-10 win over defending champions, Glasgow Warriors.

However, Ulster have won their last three PRO12 games and taken 13 out of a possible 15 to leave them the side to catch as well as boosting their chances of making the play-offs.

On Sunday, Ulster face Scarlets, again at Kingspan Stadium, and know this is a crucial game in their quest to stay out in front.

The Welsh side are only a point behind in fourth place.

Assistant coach, Joe Barakat, knows the importance of the game.

“It is huge in terms of where we want to be going forwards,” he said.

“We are at home again and we have to make that count.”

Barakat admitted the past two weeks had been ‘funny’ in terms of the ‘close for comfort’ victories.

“We spoke last week about not playing so well, but coming away with the spoils,” said Barakat.

“And I guess we repeated that again tonight, but obviously for different reasons.

“We had the opportunities in the first half to finish the game off and put it beyond doubt and then go on and pick up a bonus point.

“We did not have the patience and it is something we will talk about this week going into the Scarlets game.”

But the defence coach also warned the players the performances had to start improving.

“You’re winning ugly but if you don’t fix it up the bubble will burst,” he said.

“We’ve got some important games to play and we’re annoyed that we’re leaving bonus points out there.”

Guinness man of the match, Craig Gilroy, said the players were enjoying a run of games at home.

“I personally love playing at home and it has been so good to have a few back-to-back.

“It will be fantastic to play in front of the home crowd against another tough competitor.

“The Scarlets will be another big challenge for us. and I think we know we have to start finishing off the opportunities we are creating.

“But at the same time it says a lot about a team that doesn’t play to its full potential but is still winning.”