herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Pienaar and Jackson breathe Kiss of Life into Ulster

Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss
Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss

Director of Rugby Les Kiss owes Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson a debt of great gratitude as Ulster came back from the dead to maintain their interest in Pool 1 of The Champions Cup.

Alan Quinlan's accusations of "embarrassment" over Munster's spineless and disorganised defeat to Stade Francais flooded back as Ulster dropped 23 behind Oyonnax by the end of the first half at Stade Mathon yesterday.

The first and last lesson learned from previous excursions to France is that you get nothing easy there.

The basic shortage of authority into collisions was the main reason for Ulster's concession of ground, two tries to Jeremie Maurouard and Uwa Tawalo and 11 points to placed balls by Wales international Nicky Robinson.

The decision of Kiss to keep Pienaar, Jackson and Nick Williams on the bench came back to haunt as half-backs Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys were simply second rate against their pumped-up hosts.

In truth, the introduction of Pienaar and Jackson would not have worked without a transformation in attitude from the forward pack.

It all began when Stuart McCloskey's inside ball sent Rory Scholes hurtling home through a combination of speed, footwork and superb ball placement. A feature of the comeback was Jackson's flawless four from four kicks.

Pienaar sparked a sizzling move for Craig Gilroy's second in the 62nd minute, prop Kyle McCall plunged for the third to make it 23-21 in the 68th minute.

Finally, ice cool Jackson showed maturity to nail the winner with a penalty from halfway.

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