Guinness PRO14 Round-up: Ulster

This article was originally published on the Guinness PRO14 website on October 19, 2012.

Jacqueline is 23 years old and an Ulster Rugby supporter. She’s been attending various matches at Ravenhill for over a decade, and has been a season ticket holder for the last few years. Her best rugby moment so far has to be cheering on her team at Twickenham last season.

Nick Williams has been a star signing

Five games played and five victories to boot. There’s only one team currently in the RaboDirect PRO12 who can lay claim to this accolade, and it’s Ulster.

Ever since 1999, the province has strived to top the table and get their hands on more silverware. Unfortunately, they have been unable to emulate that success, but could this be the year it actually happens?

A number of fresh faces joined Ulster Rugby during the off-season, including new coach, Mark Anscombe. Relatively unknown to the Ulster faithful, his mantra of working on what the team had already achieved the last couple of seasons as well as developing strength and depth across the entire squad, has proved a success.

Nick Williams has been the star signing for Ulster. He has shown to be a great ball carrier and is always putting himself about the field and getting stuck into the action. His brute strength and raw talent has also seen the back rower secure a number of tries already.

Another high-profile signing for the province is Tommy Bowe. The former Ulsterman returned in the summer – much to the delight of everyone – and marked his debut with two tries against Cardiff a couple of weeks ago.

Emphasis has also been placed on the development of homegrown talent this season; among those who have impressed is youngster Michael Allen.

21-year-old Mike made his second senior start for the side against Glasgow and topped off a strong performance with a try. This led to calls for him being ‘one to watch’ and this view was also reciprocated by the coaching staff who continued to name him in the starting XV for the following fixtures.

However, regardless of the flawless start the club has had to the season, rugby has also been one of the last things on Ulster’s mind. In September, the players, coaches, supporters and rugby family from across the world were shocked to hear of the sudden and tragic death of Nevin Spence, along with his older brother Graham and father Noel, in a farming accident.

In their first game back following the accident, Ulster ran in a seven try victory away from home against Cardiff. It was a fitting tribute to their teammate, and within minutes of the game ending, had supporters using the hashtag ‘#sevenfornevin’ on Twitter.

There’s still a long way to go this season, and Ulster are only scratching the surface with what they have to offer. No matter what happens during the rest of the RaboDirect PRO12, Ulster will continue to play for their late teammate, and the supporters will continue to Stand Up for their Ulstermen.

Biggest surprise so far? Current champions Ospreys losing their first three games of the season.

Most valuable player so far this season? Nick Williams has proved a gem signing for Ulster.

Overall season prediction for your side? Top 4 finish.

Other predictions? Dan Biggar could battle it out as leading points-scorer.

Who’s going to win the RaboDirect PRO12? Ulster, of course!

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