Rory Best's half-time rallying cry inspires Ulster comeback

Rory Best attempts a burst in France
Rory Best had to deliver some 'choice' half-time words to his Ulster team-mates in France

Rory Best admitted that "choice" half-time words were required as Ulster fought back from 23-0 down to defeat Oyonnax in the European Champions Cup.

Key men Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Jackson and Nick Williams all came on at half-time but the word from the Ulster camp was the Best's rallying cry had been vital.

"What time is this interview going out?" joked Best on BBC Radio Ulster after Ulster's 24-23 win.

"There were a few choice words. We just said that it was time to man up."

Fly-half Jackson, whose late penalty secured the win that kept Ulster's qualification hopes alive, said that a lot of eyes "were looking at the floor" when the players sat down in the dressing-room at the interval, 23-0 in arrears.

Ulster's 'pathetic' first half

Speaking after the game, Best said that Ulster's first-half display had "bordered on the pathetic" and one can assume that the captain's dressing-room appraisal at the break was significantly more scathing.

"It wasn't a place we wanted to be," added the Ireland hooker, who is among the contenders to assume his country's captaincy for the upcoming Six Nations.

"We talked fairly hard and some fairly harsh words at half-time.

"Something we have in this group is brutal honesty. And to be fair, the boys stood up in the second half."

Ulster front-five woes

The Ulster skipper said the blame for the Irish province's first-half showing lay with him and his front-five colleagues.

"As a front-five, we had to apologise to the boys (at half-time), because we were getting done in the scrum and we had let them maul over a try.

"We were getting done in the areas in the game that require something between the ears and a bit of something in the chest.

"We didn't front up in the first half and our half-backs were playing off back-foot ball which is something that no team can do."

Les Kiss's decision not to start half-backs Pienaar and Jackson in France had looked a gamble, as he attempted to keep in-form duo fresh for upcoming tests.

However, Ulster's director of rugby had little choice but to introduce the pair at the break for Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys.

Best admitted that the duo's presence out on the field at the start of the second half was a "massive" psychological lift for the side.

As Ulster fought back, Jackson converted tries from Rory Scholes, Craig Gilroy and Kyle McCall, before kicking a late long-range penalty to complete the Irish province's comeback win.

Best had 'total faith' in Jackson

Paddy Jackson steps up for his match-winning late penalty for Ulster
Rory Best says he had full confidence that Paddy Jackson would land the high-pressure late penalty

Jackson missed a couple of late penalty chances to snatch victory against Munster last weekend but Best insisted that he had full faith in his Ireland colleague to land Sunday's late high-pressure kick.

"Those are the sort of kicks I know he'll not miss two weeks in a row.

"I know what a quality player he is and how good his temperament is.

"He is growing into a real international-class number 10."

The win moved Ulster to within six points of Pool 1 leaders Saracens ahead of next Saturday's meeting with the Premiership leaders at Allianz Park.

Saracens will surely go in as favourites after their comprehensive 27-9 pool win in Belfast in mid November but Best believes Ulster are capable of reversing that result.

"We are going to have to be considerably better that we were yesterday but having said that, we back ourselves.

"We'll go to London with no fear and aiming to keep the destiny of this pool in our own hands."

Top Stories