Ulster man of the match John Cooney admitted Saturday’s win over the Scarlets was probably appreciated more by the fans than the players.
he Northern Province got the better of a 12-trial thriller that was played at breakneck speed.
With each team only having one game in the season, and both having had their last friendly canceled, it was understandable that the speed of the game took its toll, especially early on when there were long stretches without a break.
Especially for Cooney who, after taking a niggle in recent weeks, was in his first action since the end of last season on a day when he tallied 30 of his team’s 55 points.
“Yeah, the first 20 minutes are there with one of the fastest games I’ve ever played,” the scrum-half told Premier Sports after Ulster joined Leinster to make the most of the front two games of the season.
“We had the ball for four or five minutes at the start.
That’s probably reflected in how we let them back into the game, we were all pretty tired at this point.
“There’s still a lot to do. We let them back into the game a few times, but for the fans I would say it was a great game to watch.”
After taking a 14-0 lead, Ulster trailed 15-14 on the half-hour mark before scoring two more tries before the turn.
Although they let the Scarlets score just a minute after the restart, they wouldn’t trail again, but it was only a one-score game before Cooney’s 72nd-minute penalty.
Cooney stressed the importance of quickly regaining the upper hand after letting their first lead slip away.
“Last season it came down to small margins,” he added. “We have faced the Stormers away (in the league and in the semi-finals) and both times we have gone down early.
“I think we took our lessons and said if we want to be a champion team we have to win the next moment. We did it, we got back in the game.
“We let them come back a few more times, but for us to go through our processes, get back into the game and score the tries we needed is a big difference.”