Toulouse surrender took a toll but Ulster eager to finish on a high note

Lowry and co. pack away the pain of Euro exit to focus on securing home advantage in URC playoffs
Toulouse surrender took a toll but Ulster eager to finish on a high note

No letting up: Michael Lowry tackled by Mark Bennett during the United Rugby Championship match between Edinburgh and Ulster at The Dam Heath Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Pic: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

Michael Lowry insists Ulster still can finish the season on a high despite the pain of their European exit.

The fullback admits the sickening one-point loss to Toulouse over two legs in the Champions Cup took a toll on the squad.

However the league win over Edinburgh last time out has them on the front foot again heading into an exciting final round of fixtures in the United Rugby Championship.

Ulster host the Cell C Sharks in Belfast tonight knowing a home win could help them secure second place, but they could finish as low as seventh depending on results elsewhere. Securing a top four place and thus a home quarter-final has to be the first aim.

“The pain from that (Toulouse) defeat is something we have to put to one side,” said Lowry. “I watched their games then against Munster and Leinster and took the learnings from those games. What else can you do?

“How we move forward now is to go out and win silverware. That (defeat) wasn’t the end of the season.

“We still have something to look forward to and the Edinburgh result boosted morale, and it takes a little bit of pressure off as well.” 

 John Cooney is back in the Ulster team with Nathan Doak, who scored 11 points in the narrow win at Edinburgh, on the bench. Tom O’Toole is in at tighthead with Alan O’Connor coming into the second row to partner Iain Henderson. Gareth Milasinovich and Kieran Treadwell drop to the bench (KO 7.35pm).

“These are the games you want to play in,” Lowry said.

“You can’t afford to be emotionally tired because if you take your foot off the gas, someone will take your spot or a team will come and outplay you and beat you.

“Physically we can rest but mentally it’s all about getting ourselves prepared and we will be ready because this is an important game.” 

Ulster (v Sharks): M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McIlroy; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, I Henderson; Marcus Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen Replacements: J Andrew, E O’Sullivan, G Milasinovich, K Treadwell, Matty Rea, N Doak, S Moore, R Lyttle

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