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Can Ulster bounce back against Leinster?

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Jim Neilly | 16:39 UK time, Wednesday, 21 October 2009

What a disappointment!

Having looked so good against Bath at Ravenhill , Ulster allowed a decent lead to be overhauled at Murrayfield in what was a carbon copy of the Magners League loss to Edinburgh a month earlier.


I would not castigate Ian Humphreys (pictured above) for a penalty miss that would, if successful, have taken Ulster 10 points clear at the start of the second half, especially as Phil Godman had fluffed a couple of pretty simple efforts coming up to half-time.

Humphreys, looking more and more like a member of ZZ Top, has been playing well and some of his tactical kicking was superb.

Overall, however, there was little to enthuse about, Timosi Nagusa's cheeky first-half try apart. When Edinburgh made some telling replacements, they upped the intensity of their play and Ulster did not seem capable of responding as they had done the previous week when they saw off Bath's challenge.

Did Brian McLaughlin make the right calls when he changed a raft of players in the second half?

What happened to Ulster's normally efficient set pieces?

The line-out, in particular, was messy and the scrum less than dominant, meaning that the backs never got going and the considerable Ulster contingent, who were in fine voice throughout, trooped away from Scottish rugby's HQ thoroughly deflated.

To make it worse, a late penalty by Julien Dupuy snatched victory for Stade Francais in Bath, taking the French side to the top of the Pool Four table.

Ulster, who have back-to-back games against Stade in December, are not out of it in terms of a knock-out place, but a win against Edinburgh at the weekend was crucial in a tough group where only the winners are likely to progress.

Munster and Leinster both won and results elsewhere in their respective groups have left them in decent shape, although Munster's injury toll is mounting alarmingly.

So it is back to the Magners League this coming weekend and a sell-out crowd looks guaranteed at Ravenhill for the visit of Brian O'Driscoll and Co. Who will be boosted by their recent win in France. What price Ulster turning over the reigning European champions?

Result of last weekend? Definitely Connacht's win away to Montpellier in the Challenge Cup, giving Michael Bradley's men a second successive victory. The West's awake!


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