Champions Cup: Iain Henderson and Ulster left with ‘incredible frustration’ after narrow Toulouse loss

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Ulster captain Iain Henderson felt his side’s defence wasn’t strong enough to keep Toulouse at bay in their Champions Cup loss on Saturday.

The Irish provincial side were unable to keep hold of the six point advantage they built in the first leg away in France and ended up losing the game on aggregate 50-49.

The second leg, played at Kingspan Stadium, resulted in a 30-23 defeat for the home side, with Antoine Dupont scoring a late try that was converted by Thomas Ramos for the one point series win.

Henderson spoke of the vexing nature of the Round-of-16 loss after winning all four group-stage games in the competition to get to this knock-out stage.

Close but no cigar

“When we look at the loss for us it is with incredible frustration, rather than previous years where we have looked at it and went ‘we were well-beaten out there’ or ‘they were able to run away with it’,” he said.

“It felt out there that we were in relative control, two red cards and a few yellows over both games certainly changes a few bits and pieces.

“However, we have to rally round each other and make sure everyone is supporting each other and make sure we are physically and emotionally ready to go for Munster.”

The Ireland international felt poor defence was to blame for the slim aggregate loss.

“We talk about cutting out those breakaway tries, if we cut one of those out over those 160 minutes it is a different story,” he said.

“But we know Toulouse have striking power from anywhere on the pitch and they used that.

“It is frustrating for us, we tried to concentrate on building pressure and not let them get those easy tries…but they managed to get a few of them.”

Knowing that the act of being sent off was enough to affect a player, the British and Irish Lion refused to criticise replacement prop Tom O’Toole’s 65th minute red card,

“Tom will be devastated…Tom is the type of character that will really affect him and he will be down about that,” said Henderson. “But it’s everyone else who will feel that they maybe made an impact to that loss.

“I have full confidence that everyone will get around Tom or be it anybody else in the squad that is feeling down in the next week.

“Duane (Vermeulen) had a good chat with us after the game and said some guys will get over it in 15 minutes, some guys will get over it in a week and some guys it will be longer.

“There is no right or wrong way to get over any of that.”

Ulster will have to pick themselves up quickly as preparations will be well underway for their all-important United Rugby Championship showdown with Munster on Friday night.

The Northern Irish province sit three points ahead of Munster in second place, keen to secure a home advantage in the league’s inaugural play-offs.

“It is difficult to throw yourself straight back into it,” said Henderson. “But it will be a focus of ours with a huge emphasis on the next two games.

“The next two games are going to be instrumental in defining how we finish the season, so we have to make sure we can show ourselves, the staff and everyone else that we are able to bounce back and put in a good performance on the back of an emotional loss.

“So that is definitely going to be a big focus for us this week.”

READ MORE: Connacht: Andy Friend and Jack Carty disappointed with team culture

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