Back in the day - Spot-on tactics allow Ulster to bask in Euro rugby glory - The Irish News, Feb 1 1999
European Rugby Cup final Ulster 21 Colomiers 6
IT was the day when everything fell into place. Ulster, spurred on every step of the way by 49,000 supporters, achieved something which had seemed impossible only a few months before and in doing so cemented their place in rugby folklore.
The game never reached the brilliant intensity of the semi-final win over Stade Francais but such was the occasion, the performance hardly mattered. The atmosphere at Lansdowne Road far surpassed that of any international of recent years.
Before the match, amidst fireworks, flags and balloons, the Ulster players lined up in front of the east stand and saluted their crowd. The massive roar which followed was maintained for 80 minutes.
“What can I say about the crowd,” said Harry Williams.
“They carried us all the way, just like they have all season”. “I’m still pinching myself. Three months ago we would never have believed we would be here, Ulster as European champions. I still can’t believe it.”
MAYBE the gameplan wasn’t pretty but it worked.
The tactical kicking game employed by Humphreys and Mason ensured Ulster stuck to a limited but efficient approach, and the percentage game reaped rich rewards culminating in the one of the most memorable days in Irish rugby.
Both teams, rank outsiders to reach the final at the start of the campaign, played like nervous kittens but it was Ulster, buoyed on by a huge home support, who held their nerve for the 80 minutes.
Ulster did not play as well as they did against Toulouse and Stade Francais in the previous two matches, but they didn’t have to. Colomiers were extremely disappointing.
This French team was not a patch on the sides Ulster had faced before and as events went against them, including some curious refereeing decisions, they lost their shape and grew increasingly frustrated.
ULSTER and Irish rugby can go from strength to strength after this magnificent performance.
The team have put rugby here on the world map.
They will be full of self-belief now they are the European champions and hopefully the team can go on a roll for the next number of years.
The structure is in place, the marketing is there, the crowd is there and even though people will expect things from them now, they’ve shown in the past few matches that they revel in that sort of pressure.
So if they can keep all the players together, all they need now is a decent fixture list.
Saturday was just awe-inspiring.
There was a real carnival atmosphere which was even better than Ravenhill, probably because they was a bigger crowd and everything was on a bigger scale.