6th March 2006 By Munster Rugby
It was hardly a classic, but when Justin Harrison rumbled over the line in the 65th minute for Ulster’s fourth try on Friday to secure the vital bonus point against Munster, he relished the moment
By Gavin Mairs – Belfast Telegraph
It was hardly a classic, but when Justin Harrison rumbled over the line in the 65th minute for Ulster’s fourth try on Friday night to secure the vital bonus point against Munster, the former Wallaby lock relished the moment.
For it was not only his first try for Ulster since his high-profile move from the New South Wales Waratahs last summer, but only the third of his professional career.
“I now have one Super 12 try, one Test try and one Celtic League try, so I am happy with that,” he chuckled.
Then came the attachment of modesty.
“The only reason that I could do my job is that the scrum and line was performing well,” he added.
“There are so many moving parts requiring other players to do their jobs and I really think the forwards took advantage of an depleted Munster side. Nonetheless you can only play what is in front of you and we took advantage of it.”
The 27-3 victory over an under-strength Munster side moved Ulster two points clear at the top of the Celtic League with six games remaining, with Gwent Dragons next up at Ravenhill on March 25.
Two weeks later Mark McCall’s men then face a crunch eight days on the road with trips to face Llanelli at Stradey Park on the weekend of April 7/8/9 before travelling to Glasgow’s Firhill on April 15.
The stop-start nature of the tournament then sees another three-week break before successive home matches against Cardiff (May 5) and Border Reivers (May 12) before the campaign concludes with a trip to reigning champions Neath-Swansea Ospreys on the weekend of May 26/27/28.
On paper Munster’s run-in looks slightly tougher, with trips to Llanelli and the Dragons followed by a home tie against third-placed Edinburgh and trips to Heineken Cup place clashing Border Reivers and the Ospreys before their campaign wraps up at home to in-form Cardiff.
In between, Declan Kidney’s men also have the glittering distract of the Heineken Cup knock-out stages, which naturally will be their over-riding focus.
Which all adds to the growing expectation that Ulster have a golden opportunity to not only claim the top Heineken Cup ranking for next season by finishing as the highest Irish province, but also land their first ever Celtic League title.
“There is no doubt this period of time has been difficult,” added Harrison, whose experience will vital over the coming months as the pressure mounts.
“Immediately after Christmas was a very sobering time for us and a difficult phase for us all.
“But we have come through that, it has galvanised us and a number of players have taken their opportunity.
“And a number of players who are involved with Ireland in the Six Nations campaign are coming back to Ulster enthusiastic to play and perform like Test players which is key for us.
“It is important that we recognise that this season is structured uniquely which the ebbs and flows of weeks off and the distractions of Test football.
“We need to concentrate on the basics and keeping progressing through, It is really quite simple.”
Ulster coach McCall is in no doubt his side has the ability to deliver in the run-in and senses a growing killer instinct in his side.
“We have been guilty this year of not closing the deal in a few games – we have scored three tries in three or four games in the Celtic League – and that has been a frustration for us,” he said. “So it was nice to push on and score five tries which is a big bonus for us. When we were able to keep the ball in hand and go through phases we were able to score some wonderful tries