Ulster centre Paddy Wallace reckons that his side have made plenty of progress during their four-match unbeaten run in all competitions and that Saturday’s eight-point defeat to Leinster will not undo that good work.
To listen to the post-match interview with Ulster centres Darren Cave and Paddy Wallace, following Saturday’s Magners League meeting with Leinster in Belfast, please click here.
Ulster failed to finish 2008 on a winning note but it has certainly been a few weeks to remember for Matt Williams’ men, with victories over Munster, Portugal, Connacht and the Scarlets.
After suffering six defeats in their first seven competitive games this season, it has been some turnaround for the province and versatile back Paddy Wallace feels there is more to come.
“As a team, we’re growing. We’re taking every match in hand. I know it’s a cliche but it really is true for us,” he said, in the aftermath of the 21-13 defeat to Leinster.
“We can’t look down to May and look at titles. We’ve got to just concentrate as a squad and focus on every match and analyse it to the best of our ability, and work harder than all the other teams to produce a performance every weekend.”
Ulster face a trip to Heineken Cup champions and current Magners League leaders Munster next weekend but despite losing their grip on a 7-3 lead against Leinster, Wallace and company have not had their confidence knocked.
“It’s not a backward step. You can’t go from the middle of October not losing a game and then lose one narrowly to a pretty good team and suddenly doubt yourself and doubt your progression as a team.
“We’ll do our research (for the Munster game) and work on what we did wrong and try to improve that.”
Coming into Saturday’s game, Ulster had conceded an average of just 11 points in their last five outings and the defensive strength shown against the champions was an obvious positive for Wallace.
“We defended for 80% percent of the game. To keep ourselves in the game and lead for much of it is testament really to our defence. It held through,” added the Ireland international.
“We had possession when they managed to score their second try. Fair credit to them but having said that, we’re very disappointed to again to be in a winning position and not come through in the end.
“In a broad picture, you can take the end result. One thing that obviously has improved is our defence and we’re not leaking tries like we used to – we’re scoring tries from set pieces and scoring tries whenever we have a good amount of possession.
“We just have to improve on certain areas – territory and possession, you can’t win games without them and that’s what we found tonight. We couldn’t put them under any pressure, certainly in that second half.
“We can improve on our kicking strategy and our positioning in our back-three and not giving them easy targets to kick into, as they found tonight.”
Wallace’s centre partner Darren Cave, who crossed for his third try in four competitive appearances, is growing into his role in the Ulster team.
The 21-year-old was pleased to have scored again but admitted that it was ‘very disappointing’ Ulster could not ‘push on after the first half.’
“We kinda found in the backs that we weren’t getting a lot of ball. There weren’t a lot of set pieces to us in their half, where we want to be playing,” he said.
“We showed, even tonight when we weren’t going overly well in attack, that we’re still dangerous when that happens.
“It was a strange game. There was a lot of kicking…you know especially when you’re an outside back and not part of the back-three but a lot of the time you’re not going to be part of the chasing line, you’re kinda just halfway in between.
“When the kicking duels are going on, I find sometimes that I’m just standing there not doing a whole lot!
“But I still found myself blowing hard (at times), obviously Leinster have a lot of genuine world class players who have played at a much higher level and that’s something that I want to get used to.
“Despite the loss, I still enjoyed playing there tonight against that standard of player.”