Sealing the Deal

Ulster had a great night at the Pro12 gongs at the weekend, hoovering up nice statuettes like they were going out of fashion:

  • Nick Williams, who we outed as a dreadful signing in August, deservedly won Player of the Year – his limitations have been exposed at times in the rarified HEC air, but Williams has thrived in the dowdier Pro12.  He followed this up by being voted IRUPA POTY by his peers, a huge honour. We owe him a mea culpa ^2 for deriding him as a terrible signing on arrival.
  • Bamm-Bamm Marshall won young POTY – the lad basically got into the Ireland team on potential and excellent Pro12 form, and he showed that if you have got it, you have got it – here’s hoping he comes back clear headed and fully fit
  • Matinee Idol Andrew Trimble won try of the year for this effort. Trimble has a reputation as a boshing wing, but he doesn’t half score some spectacular tries,  – the out-Bathing of Bath a few years back when Ulster weren’t great was a stunner, for example.  Trimble has reached double digits in tries this season, outscoring a number of more celebrated players
  • Specsavers Great Chap / Fair Play award – only six yellow cards this season – and we must say, from Rory Best back to Craig Gilroy, they are a likeable team of fine young men, who know how to stay out of trouble and keep their bibs clean.


All of the above was deserved, and there is no doubt there is a huge amount of goodwill out there towards the Ulstermen, given the circumstances in which the season began for them.  It’s safe to say most neutrals will be willing on Ulster to do it for Nevin from here. But it is imperative that Ulster go on and pick up some silverware if this season is to be a successful one – the HEC was a bit of a let-down, and finishing top of the league brings with it a responsibility to seal the deal (are we right, Leinster?).

Failure to do so last year was very frustrating for Leinster, and it’s unfortunate for Ulster that their rivals are likely to be waiting for them should they get past the Hard-Scrummaging Scarlets in the semi-final – the lads from D4 dearly want this pot to make up for past defeats.

Ulster started off the Pro12 like a train, streaking clear of the field to such an extent that a home semi-final looked assured, but their tailspin in the winter was so dramatic they fell off top spot at one point. That the upturn in form has been driven by the sustained excellence of youngsters Stuart Olding and NWJMB is positive for squad depth, but negative in that neither player has played a Pro12 final, while most of the Leinster squad have played in several.  Last year Ulster made a final, but seemed inhibited by the occasion.  Can they show up properly this time?

It’s a tough ask to go to the Oar Dee Esh and win, but that’s what Ulster are going to have to do – they’ve done it once before this season, and they have the best motivation possible to do it again.



  1. It’s been a roller-coaster season for Ulster fans – massive highs, then worrying lows. All credit to the players for overcoming the mid-season doubts, though it’s a shame the Saracens game was far from their best. Not counting any chickens, but an RDS final against a Leinster team smarting from earlier defeats, packed with experienced heads and keen to round of their season with (another?) trophy would be some experience.

    Sadly my brother has decided for some reason to get married that weekend. Wonder if it’s too late to talk him out of it? 🙂

  2. Buckfast Billy

     /  May 9, 2013

    “Failure to do so last year was very frustrating for Leinster, and it’s unfortunate for Ulster that their rivals are likely to be waiting for them”

    I think the Weegies may have something to say about that!

  3. Rava

     /  May 9, 2013

    Ah, silverware, silverware silverware where are you.

    Never was there so much emphasis put on silverware since Leinster started winning trophies.
    As a supporter of Ulster Rugby for more years than I care to remember, it isn’t the be all and end all. Being involved in watching my team at a time of the year when I should be getting my handicap down on the golf course has been just brilliant these last few seasons.

    It would be brilliant for the players to have winners medals (IMO they should already have for winning the league) at the end of the season but I’m just delighted we are now a competitive side, both in the league and in Europe.

    Long may it continue.

  4. Len

     /  May 9, 2013

    I think the Pro12 is one Monkey Leinster would really like to see off their back. The last two finals have been frustrating to watch as a Leinster fan, particularly the questionable reffing decisions last year which resulted in the sin binnings in the front row. I can see Leinster bringing a lot more intensity to the final assuming they get there.

  5. ORiordan

     /  May 9, 2013

    *If* it is Ulster v Leinster at the RDS then the crowd will be more or less 50:50, so it won’t be the RDS atmosphere that Leinster are used to. I’d agree with the sentiment that Ulster are unrecognisable from the bad old days of a few years ago but they need to seal the deal with a trophy otherwise they are really just nearly-men for both HEC and Pro12.

  6. abitofshoepie

     /  May 9, 2013

    Most good teams go through this ‘nearly men’ phase..think of the numerous attempts by Munster and Leinster to break through in Europe before they finally got their mits on the trophy. Clermont may just be about to do the same thing after a few frustrating seasons.

    Assuming a Ulster v Leinster final, I think the pressure will actually be on Leinster to deliver the trophy, after being the best team in the league for a few years but letting it slip in the play-off finals. A head coach leaving, a few players in the late autumn of their careers and a ‘home’ fixture may just add to the pressure. Ulster are in a position that if they win its great, getting to that stage can be seen as progress from last season and a losing final is part of the learning curve for what is still a developing squad.

  7. As a regular watcher of Glasgow, all I can say is Leinster better bring their A game. The semi final in the RDS on Saturday is probably the pick of the lot when it comes to the collective play-offs over this weekend. (Classing the Top14 eliminators as play offs…)

    The respective teams are pretty level across the pitch with the one major flaw in the Glasgow side their 10, now that young Duncan Weir is out for a few months. And likewise the Leinster team seem to be struggling with their outside backs of recent, however Conway seems to have hit his stride!

    The two likely teams make for interesting comparison

    Healy vs Grant
    Strauss vs McArthur
    Ross vs Welsh
    Cullen vs Kellock
    Toner vs Swinson
    O’Brien vs Strauss
    Jennings vs Barclay
    Heaslip vs Wilson
    Boss vs Matawalu
    Sexton vs Jackson
    Conway vs van der Merwe
    D’Arcy vs Horne
    O’Driscoll vs S Lamont
    Nacewa vs Maitland
    Kearney vs Hogg

    Tasty battles all over the place!

  8. mikebrad

     /  May 9, 2013

    The Ulster win at the RDS earlier this year was a brilliant game so if it happens again we are in for a treat. It meant a lot to the players as evidenced by Muller jumping around like a teenager at the final whistle. Scarlets and Glasgow won’t be walk-overs but I think the Irish will come out on top.

    Good to see a shout out for Mr Trimble who has been brilliant this year. His work rate, flanker-esque tackling and quick feet have made him exciting to watch. He was very unlucky not to be involved with Ireland. The “versatility” of others (which more often than not means being average at number of positions) seemed to be more in favour than his ability to score tries and run good support lines.

    I reckon Nick Williams has the highest “Oooaawww” count (when a player bangs into another and the crowd cheer/wince) of any Ulster player ever.

    • Amiga500

       /  May 9, 2013

      You mean “ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” (Tuilagi)

      [Or are we actually allowed to use that given Barnsey doesn’t commentate on the Pro12?]

      • ORiordan

         /  May 9, 2013

        …doesn’t commentate on the Pro12 yet. I’m sure he is re-learning his “ooooooooooohhhhhhh… Downey” for 14/15.

      • mikebrad

         /  May 9, 2013

        Apologies for my ignorance, I’ve never had sky so not overly familiar with their vocabulary. I am on a strict diet of Jim “young master Henderson” neilly and Ryan “orf load” constable.

        • therealspratt

           /  May 9, 2013

          My real worry for the next few years is how these new Sky presenters are going to tell me what school any new Ulster player went to! I mean seriously, I doubt Barnes even watched Roger Wilson playing for “The Belfast Inst”(TM) in the ’98 Schools Cup Final!

          • I don’t think you need to worry about that, Mark Robson will have it well and truly covered. He once started going on about Neil Best’s dad: ‘He eats steak every morning for breakfast, probably raw…’

        • Amiga500

           /  May 10, 2013

          Did YOU know that Mike McComish once played at out-half for Campbell college? 😀

          Jim is great craic. Constable… less so. He needs to “effect the banter in the commentary box with a bit more precision”.

          • mikebrad

             /  May 10, 2013

            In the recent Connacht game I think big Jim referred to someone subjecting an opponent to a spot of “how‘s your father” at the breakdown. I have no idea what that means and frankly don’t want to. I could have imagined this though.

            On a separate note what has happened to Roger Wilson? Is he injured or just out of favour?

          • therealspratt

             /  May 10, 2013

            Injured I do believe, couldn’t see him falling out of favour when he’s such a valuable asset to the team even with Williams bashing his way all over the pitch.

  9. Bowe Gathers

     /  May 10, 2013

    “Little dink into a bit of space for Tommy Bowe to chase.. Bowe gathers! Bowe gathers! Bowe gathers! Shane Williams is getting him – he’s not going to get the Ulsterman! Holy God in heaven what a try by Tommy Bowe.” GOD BLESS BIG JIM. Not averse to a bit of how’s your father myself either…

  10. Yossarian

     /  May 10, 2013

    Scarlets desperately poor.davies and north for lions don’t try and impose themselves on the game.46 mins and 25-3 this could easily be 40 points before the end.well rested before the final!

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