Ulster’s league form continues to spiral out of control as we now hit the worst series of league results in our brief history of Celtic League rugby. One win and one draw and ten defeats in the last twelve league games just about says it all really and last night, like oh too many nights this season, it was our tactical naivety and poor decision making that that let us down yet again.
It appears to me that the management agree on a pre-match strategy for each game and irrespective of what they subsequently witness out on the park they to continue to follow their pre-arranged tactics come hell or high water.
Take the subbing of Kyriacou and Fitzpatrick. In normal circumstances it would have been a reasonable option to bring on Brady and Botha early in the first half to freshen things up but on this occasion the timing was abysmal. Ulster had lost the influential Diack just before the break and Glasgow had come out at the start of the second half firing on all cylinders putting the boys under all sorts of pressure. Not the time to start messing about with our main sources of possession, line out and scrum, and definitely not the time to bring fresh faces into our defensive alignment.
I’d said before the game that whoever controlled the line outs would win the game and up till these substitutions Ulster were well in the game with their dominance in the line out giving them a definite edge. Afterwards the supply of ball dried up and Parks was able to control the game with his tactical kicking.
If Ulster had played the game that unfolded in front of them they would have kept this pair on for at least a further ten minutes until Ulster had weathered the storm of the Glasgow fight back and I suspect that if it had been Best playing as hooker that is exactly what they would have done.
This brings me to the more worrying aspect of Ulster’s decline since the start of the season, namely a certain favouritism towards some members of the squad and a lack of faith in others irrespective of what form is shown on the pitch and this appears to have undermined whatever confidence there was in the squad at the start of the season.
At the start of the season our back row and our front row were performing well and winning games but one bad game, ironically against Glasgow, and players were dropped and to me unfit marquee players were parachuted in. As a result the previous good work in team building and squad development was undone and players like Kyraicou, Brady, Young, Fitzpatrick, Humphreys, Faloon, Anderson, Tuohy, Whitten, Nagusa and Schifcofske were reduced to bit part players as the season disintegrated.
Irrespective of what super signings are made for next season, no team can afford to overlook, or more correctly, to show lack of faith in such a large part of their squad and it comes across as an irritable teacher disciplining naughty schoolboys. Add to that the rumours that two of our best performing players are told they are not good enough for Ulster, but ironically good enough for the European Champions, and it’s not hard to see why the season has unravelled so dramatically.
Now this is not a call for a change of management, as such a call would be as petulant as how the management appear to be acting. Let’s face it, us Ulster supporters are “World Class” at purulent, hysterical overreaction from people who have very little feel for the game of rugby. No, it’s really a call for a bit of faith in Team Ulster (by Team Ulster I mean players and coaches) and that faith must be shown by the coaches as much as by the supporters.
Few in Team Ulster are performing to their ability and that goes double for the coaching team, but wholesale changes are not the answer. A bit of trust and encouragement to all members of Team Ulster allowing them to perform to the best of their their ability is what is required.
Consider young Nevin Spence who had a bit of a nightmare start last night. However, he was trusted by the coaches and encouraged by his team mates and the youngster pulled through. I think everyone in Team Ulster has shown enough at the start of the season to be trusted and encouraged. They will pull through! Won’t they?
Let us know your thoughts below. If enough of you vote I’ll try and bring it up at the AGM on Wednesday.
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