ULSTER COACH MARK ANSCOMBE smiled as Rory Best’s son, Ben, held a press conference of his own under the old stand in Ravenhill. The hooker, nursing a deep eyebrow gash, encouraged his boss to plough on. Always works a treat on the Best homestead.
In a game containing scrapping wingers and fullbacks, a TMO, five tries and some impressive Ulster driving mauls, Anscombe highlighted his team’s first half, and 10 minute blitz after the break, as where the Pro12 semi-final was won.
“Job done,” he told TheScore.ie. “The work was done in the first 50 minutes I suppose. That gave us the victory. A couple of crucial injuries slowed us down and we lost our way a bit after that. It got a bit messy.
“At the end of the day, we did the job in that 50 minutes and I think some of the rugby that we played was superb. We only had one thing to do today and that was get the win; we did it.”
The gameplan, said Anscombe, for the final, on 25 May at the RDS, will be to get another lead and ‘keep the foot on the throat for 80 minutes’. Best revealed that there was on-pitch talk of ‘taking Scarlets to town’ after they went 25-3 up but was at a loss to explain why performance levels tailed off.
Anscombe is hopeful that John Afoa will be fit to play in the final in Dublin and, with Luke Marshall out for the season, there is a chance that Craig Gilroy could also feature.
Having lost the Heineken Cup Final to Leinster last year, Best believes it will be a true mark of his side’s progress if they are to finish the season with some silverware. He credited Ulster’s foreign players, such as Ruan Pienaar, Johann Muller and Jared Payne, for buying into that mentality and driving the team on.
Best added, “We’ve known for a while now that if we got to the final, it wouldn’t be at home but the big thing for us is that it is on the island [of Ireland]. It’s just a short trip down the road… a lot of us [Irish internationals] are used to Dublin being our home ground. It is what it is.”
As the press briefing ended, Best scooped up his son and, as the young man continued to chat, joked ‘I blame the parents’.
*Additional reporting by Megan Joyce of The Front Row Union.