BBC BLOGS - Stephen Watson

NI stars aim to master Augusta

Stephen Watson | 12:02 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

When I drove down the famous Magnolia Lane for the first time three years ago, I was left completely speechless.

It was a journey I never thought I would have the privilege of making.

My sporting dream had always been to see the holy grail of golf first hand, and to report from the most exclusive tournament in the world, which I had watched religiously on television year after year.

Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke are out for more major glory when they play at the 2012 US Masters

I will never forget that magical moment in 2009, the same year Rory McIlroy made his Masters debut, but to be returning to the iconic venue this year feels even more special.

The reason? Because Northern Ireland, is the talk of Augusta.

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Ulster's long wait is almost over

Stephen Watson | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

It has been a long wait since 30 January 1999. That was the day Ulster lifted the European Cup at the old Lansdowne Road. Since then they have never qualified for the knock-out stages of the competition.

This weekend, however, I expect Ulster to carve out that all-important win against Aironi which will take them into the quarter-finals.

It is certainly not a foregone conclusion, but Ulster have beaten Aironi twice this season and their form away from home has much improved - notably those wins on the road against Cardiff, Treviso and Bath before Christmas.

Will there be more scenes of celebration after Ulster play Aironi on Saturday?

A runners-up spot in the group is guaranteed with a four-point victory, a bonus point win may just secure a home draw in the last eight - depending on what form Bath turn up in for their match against Biarritz.

Last week's success at Ravenhill reminded me of those famous European triumphs almost 12 seasons ago which helped propel Ulster to the cup win.

Toulouse, the most successful team in the competition, were beaten twice and Stade Francais once.

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Signings are encouraging for Ulster

Stephen Watson | 16:53 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

At last. The most high-profile signing in the history of Ulster rugby arrives in Belfast this week.

Fans should be able to catch a glimpse of South African international Ruan Pienaar at Ravenhill this weekend as he samples his first Friday night experience.

The 26-year-old won't be in a white shirt just yet - his playing debut will more than likely to be the following week away to Connacht.

Pienaar is a utility back and can play play either scrum-half, fly-half or full-back but I am told he is coming to Ulster to play exclusively at number nine.

<em>Ruan Pienaar is regarded as the most high-profile signing every made by Ulster</em>

The signing of South Africam scrum-half shows Ulster have big ambitions

"Ruan who?" was the jocular response from the player who presently holds the shirt, when I asked him about Pienaar's imminent arrival.

Paul Marshall, who has made a fine start to this season, will no doubt continue to progress and gain valuable experience by working alongside the Springbok.

Pienaar is undoubtedly one of the most naturally gifted young players in the world game, but he may not turn out to be Ulster's most important signing this year. I think that player is Stevie Ferris.

The Irish international is one of the most in-demand players in the game and his decision this week to spend another two years with Ulster signals his intent to win silverware with his own province.

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