So this week, before the start of the regular season, the IRFU made the incredulous and ridiculous decision to tell Ulster that they could not renew Ruan Pienaars contract. The Province wanted it, the fans wanted it and the player wanted it. Now they could be forgiven if there was a great prospect running away in the reserve teams, if a talented player was a regular sub for the four provinces. That doesn't seem to be the case. The provinces are allowed four overseas players. So why does the IRFU insist on micro managing. Its enough for supporters that they regularly tell the provinces that Player X and Player Y aren't allowed to play. This decision seemed designed to hurt Ulster, not 'Succession Planning'. Its hard not to think if Ruan was at Leinster or Munster that would be the case. The IRFU were pivotal in moving Robbie Henshaw to Leinster from Connacht. Seems disrespectful to a province that nurtured and developed him to the green shirt of O Driscoll to have him torn away and sent to Dublin. Ruan only last season turned down a big money making chance at Toulon. I think that this should be revisited and maybe even a bit of mutiny from Ulster. The banner in the crowd against Newport said it all. From 'Ulster says No.' a classic in anybody's book, to the famous red hand being drawn into a thumbs down.
A very quick rethink is in order.
Ulster weren't at their showmanship best tonight. Not by a long way. A better drilled side should have punished their costly mistakes. From the same old same old penalties at the ruck to poor passing, knock ons, and off sides. Moments of genius and skill secured the bonus points. Patient build up and good eyes from Pienaar, Piutau, and an excellent debut from Lyttle. Lyttle crossed the whitewash twice. The Ulster side was able to keep Newport out for the entire second half and only broke to give 8 points in the first half. Newport will be hurting tonight as they go over the video on Monday. The Referee had a mixed game and let some fairly obvious infringements go. A forward pass from Ulster, offside by Newport. Oh and man of the match........you guessed it. Ruan! pulled the strings, charged down for his try, and dropped to fullback to cover Piutau. Heron looked out of his depth at times and as frustrating as he was falling of tackles, passing to no one, his kicking out of hand was spot on. A young Paddy Jackson.
Ulster will be happy to be off to a canter. Now for Treviso.