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11 September 2020, Shona Sullivan

Player-of-the-Match against Edinburgh in last week’s thrilling encounter, Rob Lyttle, looks back at the Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final win – and forward to the Final against Leinster.

Trailing for the majority of the game, Ulster dug deep and found the inspiration they needed to seize control of the Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final versus Edinburgh, with Lyttle’s scintillating try initiating Ulster’s comeback.

“At half-time, we were only 5-0 down and believed we were still in the game,” he says. Edinburgh got the early score in the second half which made our job a bit tougher. But after the first try, we started to believe we could get a foothold in the game and break down the Edinburgh defence. One thing we talked about Edinburgh was how tidy their defence was. Once we scored, we thought we could do this and built the momentum to win the game.

“My try came off the back of some good counter-attack play. It was a great all-round team score. There were two great maul tries after that and we showed a lot of discipline; it was fantastic to get the result in the end.”

Commenting on the makeup of the Ulster squad which has got to within touching distance of the Guinness PRO14 title, the winger says the blend of youth and experience has driven the squad to this point.

“We have guys who are very experienced; a couple of guys who have played for the British and Irish Lions, along with plenty of internationals, mixed with players like myself who have only ever played for Ulster. There are no big egos and we have a really solid team; I think that will hold us in good stead.

“There are some experienced players who have lost in Finals and young guys who are hungry. We don’t want to be another team that loses in a Final. As much as the leaders are keeping us on the straight-and-narrow, we want to push them on as well.”

The 23-year-old is well aware that Leinster have gone unbeaten in the competition this season but believes that Ulster has what it takes to put in a performance and win.

“Leinster is the highest-ranked team in the Guinness PRO14 for a reason, so it’s no different to what our task was when we played them a few weeks ago. We know we need to be at our best; we weren’t that day a few weeks ago, but if we bring our best and we don’t get the result, so be it. If we put in our best performance, I don’t see why we can’t be there or thereabouts.

“We try not to focus too much on them though. It’s very clear they’re the favourites and haven’t lost a game, but we’re not going down to lose; we’re going to put in our best shift and win.”

When asked about the 2006 Celtic League-winning wingers, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe, being an influence on him as a nine-year-old, Lyttle admits they were inspirations, but the wait for more silverware has been long enough.

“When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was Andrew Trimble. Those guys definitely inspired me. If I could win a trophy like they did, I’ll be more than happy.  It’s safe to say though that I’m sick of hearing about when Ulster last won silverware in 2006. It’s time we stepped up and won it again.”