Jared Payne: Ulster defence coach says team 'stopped playing' in Challenge Cup semi-final collapse

Ellis Genge's second-half try helped Leicester earn a comeback win over Ulster at Welford Road
Ulster appeared in total control at half-time in the European Challenge Cup semi-final but Leicester fought back to clinch a 33-24 win at Welford Road

Ulster defence coach Jared Payne says the Irish province "stopped playing a little bit" in Friday's Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Leicester as they squandered an 11-point half-time lead.

Dan McFarland's side looked set for victory as they led 17-6 the break before crashing to a 33-24 defeat.

"We couldn't deal with some of the stuff they threw at us. We potentially stopped playing a bit," said Payne.

"They put us under a lot of pressure. You have got to give them credit too."

Payne acknowledged that Ulster's second-half collapse - started by quickfire tries by the home team's Jasper Wiese and Ellis Genge - led to a "few home truths" being said in the Irish province's dressing room after the contest.

"Exactly what was said gets to stay in between those four walls. It was a sore place. Everyone was pretty gutted," added the former Ireland and British and Irish Lions centre.

Ulster dealing with Leicester collapse 'head on'

The New Zealander says that Ulster's coaching staff have faced Friday night's European demise "head on", with head coach Dan McFarland admitting after the game that it would take his team some time to get over the events of the second half at Welford Road.

However, get over it they must with Friday's Rainbow Cup trip to Limerick looming where they will face a Munster side which hammered Leinster away in the opening round of the new competition.

"You've got to address it haven't you? If you hide away from it, it's going to eat you up inside," added Payne.

"We had a pretty good conversation among the group yesterday. We dealt what we needed to and just got out on the pitch yesterday afternoon and tried to get a bit of excitement in the boys.

"We threw a ball around and played a bit of rugby which is what we love. Hopefully with a bit more of that today, we flush it away and attack this week.

"Going down to Munster if you feel sorry for yourself, you're going to be in a world of hurt."

Will Addison tries to fend off Leicester's Hanro Liebenberg after coming off the bench at Welford Road last weekend
Will Addison has come through his return to rugby unscathed in two appearances off the bench after being out for 15 months because of a back injury which required surgery

Addison feared career might be over

Fit-again Ireland utility back Will Addison is looking forward to the prospect of getting more game time in Limerick as he continues his return to action following a lengthy injury spell which included moments when he thought his rugby career might be at an end.

Addison played his first game in 15 months in the opening Rainbow Cup defeat by Connacht 10 days ago as he came on as a second-half replacement and was again utilised off the bench at Welford Road.

"Definitely the fear of finality of your career crossed my mind a few times," said Allison, who has earned four Ireland caps during his time at Ulster despite being dogged by a succession of injury blows since his move from Sale in 2018.

"Whenever it's an injury to your back, it's really serious and I've had a couple of them now.

"There's a point where you start to weigh up whether the brilliant job I have in playing professional rugby is worth it for what's beyond rugby.

"There were definitely those thoughts that went through my head.

"Luckily the support I've had from my surgeon first of all, the physio staff here and in terms of myself, I've always had confidence that I'd get things right.

"Once the operation was done, it gave me a clear line to where I could get back whereas pre operation when I was dealing with a chronic injury, it was quite hard to see an end in sight."

While the Ulster dressing-room on Friday night was not a pleasant place to be, Addison admits simply getting through the game unscathed for the second week in a row was a "silver lining".

"That's massive because it was a really tough period of my career but I'm delighted to get through that. I'm thankful for the support the club have given me and my family."

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