Aironi 20-46 Ulster, Heineken Cup
Humphreys: Ulster in pole position
December 17, 2011
George Biagi scored one of three tries for Aironi © Getty Images
Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys insists the province's 46-20 bonus-point win over Aironi puts them in prime position to top Heineken Cup Pool 4 and gain automatic qualification for the knock-out stages.
Leicester's last-gasp victory at home to Clermont Auvergne in today's other pool fixture means that the shake-up is likely to come down to the final day. But with the Tigers next up for Ulster at Ravenhill before a trip to the Massif Central, Humphreys says they have no interest in aiming for a best runners-up spot, and has instead targeted holding on to top spot as their ultimate goal.
"We haven't had a chance to sit down and look at the permutations yet," admitted Humphreys, whose side has a penalty try and efforts from Andrew Trimble, Tom Court, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack and Adam Macklin. "But after round four, you generally get a good idea of how the pool is likely to pan out. Leicester's win against Clermont certainly makes things interesting.
"If they had lost, perhaps it would have been easier for us to earn qualification. But as things stand, we now have a very good chance of topping the group and getting a better draw in the quarter-finals.
"That has been our goal from the start, and we're going to go into the last round with all guns blazing. We've already beaten Clermont at home and we've secured back-to-back bonus-point wins against Aironi. Now Leicester have to come to Ravenhill to play us, and what a fantastic prospect that is."
The former Ireland international added: "As for today, we came here to do a job and did very much as we would have hoped. It was a bit frustrating at times but we're more than happy to go home with the five points."
Aironi head coach Rowland Phillips, meanwhile, was left to rue yet another loss for the struggling Italian franchise.
"I'm very disappointed," admitted Phillips, despite a spirited second-half fightback which included tries from Sinoti Sinoti, Roberto Quartaroli and George Biagi.
"We prepared well but didn't perform. We showed in the second half that when we have the confidence to play, we can compete. But in general, the performance wasn't acceptable. If you give teams too much respect, you are always going to be in trouble.
"We had a chat at half-time and came out in the second half with a bit more belief, and a bit more focus on ourselves, but the result was already beyond us at that stage."
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