OPINION: Italian job a must to end Ulster’s away day blues

Leinster's Luke McGrath celebrates with Jack Conan
Leinster's Luke McGrath celebrates with Jack Conan

Ulster suffered their sixth straight away defeat of the season - their fourth on the bounce in the Guinness PRO12 - with a 24-11 reverse to defending Celtic champions, Leinster in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

Two sides low on confidence battled out an entertain Irish PRO12 derby clash, with Leinster once again emerging victorious.

It was the same old story for Ulster. They once again lacked a clinical edge and their discipline was to prove costly.

Had they gone in at the break 6-6 given their dominance in the first half, it could have been a different story.

But ill discipline, particularly on the road this season already, was to hurt them again.

Dan Tuohy’s yellow card was to see Leinster rack up a 16-6 advantage three minutes into the second half and it gave them the impetus to press on and take a much needed win for themselves.

Leinster jumped from sixth to take the fourth place occupied by Ulster before kick off, Neil Doak’s side slipping into fifth spot, a point behind their rivals.

However, defeats for top two, Ospreys and Glasgow, has kept things tight at the top with eight points separating the first and sixth placed teams.

Ulster are back on the road again this weekend, taking on struggling Italian side Benetton Treviso on Sunday.

It is a simple scenario for Ulster - they have to win.

Treviso hauled themselves off the bottom of the PRO12 standings with back to back victories over their fellow Italian strugglers, Zebre.

That has given them some momentum and they will also take something from the fact Zebre defeated Ulster in Italy already this season - the start of the poor run of on the road defeats for the Irish Province.

A win is a must for an Ulster side low on confidence.

There are two European Cup games to come before a short break and then a crucial run of fixtures during the Six Nations championships.

That is the period when a team’s chances of making the top four play-offs can either be enhanced or ended.

This weekend Ulster must take a victory which will then set then up to do the double over the Italians when they meet in Belfast on February 13.