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The Ulster Thread

paddybrown

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Ulster

My thoughts on Ulster's season.

We were consistently good in the Pro14, except against Leinster, but disappointing in the Heineken Cup, and catastrophic in the Rainbow Cup.

Coetzee announcing he was leaving was I think the turning point, and then his (possibly diplomatic) injury ending his time at Ulster. We weren't the same after that. Timoney is showing signs of becoming a quality number 8, but he's a different kind of player. The team was set up with Coetzee's qualities in mind, and without Coetzee, the game plan didn't work so well.

Cooney's injury against Leicester was another turning point. We were in control of the game until he went off, and then collapsed, and continued that collapse in the Rainbow Cup. We need him in the big games. Mathewson can't keep the game ticking against better teams the way Cooney can. I assume Mathewson was signed on the assumption that Cooney would be away on Ireland duty and we'd need cover, but as it turned out two scrum halves was enough, and I think Shanahan would have done as well as Mathewson.

I think we missed Billy Burns when he was away with Ireland, and when we got him back his confidence was damaged. I like Burns, I think he's a talented player with good distribution and a great attacking kicking game, but I'm not sure about his big game mentality. Ian Madigan is not as good a distributor or tactical kicker, but he's a machine as a goal kicker and does have big game mentality - he has nerves of steel and his confidence is undentable.

Michael Lowry had a wonderful season at full-back, one of our most exciting players to watch. It was good to have Rob Baloucoune back from injury, but his handling was a bit unreliable - probably rusty from being out so long. I think Rob Lyttle is an underrated player. If James Shume keeps playing the way he is, he'll be in the Ireland reckoning soon enough. And having Addison back next season will as good as signing a new player.
 

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