Ulster captain Iain Henderson doesn’t regret supporting his maul to take them to the final

Ulster captain Iain Henderson stood by his decision to support the team’s URC semi-final defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

Visitors to DHL Stadium, who would have hosted this week’s final at Ravenhill had they won, led the game by an hour but failed to score in the second half and ended up falling 17-15 even after the South African side were reduced to 14 men.

This is not due to the lack of opportunities with Ulster’s execution, especially in the third quarter, leaving them in the lurch.

The side mallet was such a potent weapon at the start of the season, but it was stripped of its power by the Stormers who repelled every advance. Even when Rob Herring stopped and appeared to be driving towards lime, he was brilliantly stopped by Seabelo Senatla, who had already saved an earlier attempt by returning to Billy Burns after a double chip and chase.

In a game decided by an 87º converting minutes, naturally in the aftermath, there were doubts as to whether Ulster should have hit the posts at any point in the second half, knowing that a successful shot from John Cooney would have made it a two-goal game.

Henderson, however, supported the links of the field.

“We talked about it on the field,” said Henderson, whose coach Dan McFarland recalled that none of the shots were guaranteed.

“We all felt the maul was going well, it’s something that has gone well for us this season and we wanted to support it.

“In hindsight, another three points would have been great sitting in this spot now, but we have to support our maul and support what we did well all season.”

Rather than looking back on the decision-making involved in the defeat, the Irish international believes his season is over a week ahead of schedule due to an inability to make the most of his opportunities and a poor start.

“We let them score the game’s first attempt of a lineout maul in the first two minutes,” he added. “We talked about not starting well, but we were used to that the last time we played here and they were 14-0 early on.

“I think there were times in the park where our breakdown could have been much more organized there.

“I think there were just small mistakes that we didn’t convert when we had the opportunity.

“In other games in the past, when we played a little better, we came out with three, five or seven points visiting the opposing third of the field or their ’22’, so that’s where we need to fix things, capitalizing (on opportunities).

“In that second-half we scored zero points and to win a game you need to score points.”

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