Ulster discipline key for captain Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson helping Ulster home against Clermont. Pic by INPHO.
Iain Henderson helping Ulster home against Clermont. Pic by INPHO.
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Captain Iain Henderson is not getting carried away with Ulster’s start in the Heineken Champions Cup - despite sitting top of Pool four after two games.

Ulster started the campaign by grounding out a 17-16 at Bath and gave an equally resolute performance in beating Clermont at Kingspan Stadium on Friday.

Victory over Clermont put Ulster two points clear of the French outfit but Dan McFarland’s men may rue allowing Clermont a bonus point, especially as the home side had 58 per cent of the possession and a 60 per cent territorial advantage.

Ulster conceded 16 penalties in the game and lost three scrums on their own feed.

Henderson knows if there is to be a repeat of the 1999 success then discipline has to be tightened up.

“Looking at previous years, I’m sure you could pick out a lot of teams who have gone two from two and that’s by no means in this competition job done - not even slightly job done,” said Ulster skipper Henderson. “We need to concentrate, back-to-back games are always difficult because it’s an opportunity for teams to see how you’re playing the first week and then come back at you with a bit of a vengeance or carrying a bit of momentum.

“We need to knuckle down and we talked about it after the game, we need to use this as a building block going forward.

“Dan (McFarland) mentioned it there, there’s a lot we have to work on, including our discipline, an 80-minute disciplined performance would be ideal, we can use that as a benchmark.

“It was disappointing about the penalty count last week, we talked about the first half not being good enough, giving away seven penalties; this week we slipped off our focus in the second half.”

It was a night of mixed fortunate for Ulster at the set piece, they were 100 per cent on their own throw at the lineout and managed to grab two of Clermont’s - but the scrum will be a worry.

Not only did Ulster lose three on their own feed, they also coughed up a penalty try after a series of scrums in their own 22 and they couldn’t exert any pressure on Clermont as the French side won all 11 scrums on their own ball.

“If you look at their line-out and at their scrum, they’ve got size everywhere throughout their pack,” said Henderson, “We just had to ensure and attempt to do what we thought we could, execute our gameplan and bring tempo, enjoying our high-energy, fast-paced game.

“That’s what we like to do, that’s how we like to play and how we like to train.

“Fighting for every inch is what we aim to bring, not only to every game but to every session.”

Henderson is hoping back-to-back wins against French opposition at home will turn Kingspan into a fortress where opposition sides will fear to come.

“A lot of this squad were involved in the win of Racing 92 last year, it was a thoroughly enjoyable one but unfortunately I missed it, for me that is right up there (Clermont) with the home wins you can have here.

“We like to treat this place as a special ground for us to play at, every win we have here is thoroughly enjoyed and celebrated, I don’t think this one will be slipping under anybody’s radar over the next few years.”