Maurice Field hails Ulster's European win over Scarlets as 'stunning turnaround'

Louis Ludik, Jordi Murphy and Rob Herring celebrate after Ulster's impressive win over Scarlets
Jordi Murphy (centre) was among the Ireland stars who returned to bolster Ulster against Scarlets

Former Ireland centre Maurice Field hailed Ulster's European Champions Cup win over Scarlet as a "stunning turnaround" after their heavy defeat by the same opposition two weeks ago.

Ulster's 25-24 bonus-point win over at Parc y Scarlets kept their qualification hopes very much alive.

Field says the return of their frontline Ireland stars including skipper Rory Best lifted the team.

"It was a complete turnaround. Ulster were completely aggressive," he added.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound, Field added: "There was passion and pride in that performance last night.

"Bear in mind, Ulster hadn't beaten the Scarlets in Wales since 2012 and the Scarlets had 19 returning internationals to choose from."

Field believes the return of the Ireland contingent led the other players to completely lift their performance levels after the comparative struggles of recent weeks.

Will Addison dives to score Ulster's third try against Scarlets
Will Addison scored Ulster's third try in the impressive bonus-point win over Scarlets

Addison 'find of the season' for Irish rugby

Best was joined back in the Ulster team by other Ireland November series heroes Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison, Jordi Murphy and Iain Henderson.

Field says Addison has been the "find of the season" for Irish rugby as he produced a man-of-the-match display which included superbly setting up a try for in-form wing Stockdale.

"The return of Rory Best and the other big names brings a clinical edge to training and an expectation of what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.

"Friday's key was that Ulster were completely aggressive in defence.

"Over the past few weeks, it's been a very passive push defence and teams have been able to get out on the wide channels to hurt Ulster.

"Last night Ulster, man for man, used what we used to call the killer bee defence where they just wiped out everything that was in front of them."

Burns produces 'best game for Ulster'

Field also added that Friday's game also saw fly-half Billy Burns produce his best performance since his arrival during the summer.

"I've been critical of Billy Burns before - walking out the door when things got a bit pressurised.

"Last night he had a good performance. He was able to control the game.

"The boys around him helped out. [John] Cooney had another marvellous performance and there were leaders across the park."

The ex-Ulster and Ireland centre also praised the display of unheralded prop Eric O'Sullivan.

"He had a a tremendous game at prop although he doesn't get much mention."

Wayne Pivac led Scarlets to last year's Champions Cup semi-finals
Field says there is "no way" Wayne Pivac will bring an under-strength team to Belfast next Friday

'Expect Scarlets backlash'

But while thrilled by Ulster's display, Field says Dan McFarland's squad can expect a backlash from Scarlets in next Friday's European return game - even though the Welsh outfit are now out of contention for a place in the knockout stages.

"They have pride. They were semi-finalists last season and they won't want to keep losing. They will be looking for a scalp and I expect them to come out with a different mindset next weekend."

Field believes Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac and his lieutenants Stephen Jones and Byron Hayward will be determined to gain revenge next weekend.

"Wayne Pivac will not be bringing a weakened team. That kind of attitude is just not in his DNA. Stephen Jones and Byron Hayward will also be hurting.

"But Ulster now have to believe that they can get out of Pool 4.

"It's basically the pool of death with Leicester and Racing 92, with all the financial resources they have, also there.

"But Ulster will be facing Racing 92 at home in a wet January. We know that French teams don't like coming to Belfast and that's still the case."