McLaughlin proud of Ulster

PA Sport

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Brian McLaughlin was "exceptionally proud" of his Ulster side after they qualified for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and came within minutes of ending Clermont Auvergne's long-standing unbeaten home record.

Ruan Pienaar's four penalties had put Ulster 12-9 ahead in France but replacement Ti'i Paulo's try in the final quarter saw the home side run out 19-15 winners.

The result meant Clermont and Ulster finished level on 20 points at the top of Pool 4 but Paulo's score proved crucial as it saw the 2010 French champions finish ahead of Ulster by virtue of a better head-to-head record in the games between the two sides. The visitors still progress as one the best runners-up.

Ulster head coach McLaughlin said: "We came here wanting to get a home quarter-final for our fans and I think that's why we're exceptionally disappointed because we felt in the first half we maybe had a couple of opportunities.

"We missed a couple of penalties - difficult as they were - but we had a couple of try-scoring opportunities which we left out there.

"When you're playing in a competition like this - exciting as it is and a brilliant competition - you just can't afford to do that."

However, McLaughlin said Ulster can take a lot of confidence from their performance against Clermont, which followed up an impressive win over Leicester last weekend.

"What we wanted to do was back up last week, to show that we are proper contenders in this competition.

"Now what we've got to do, no matter where we go in the last eight, we've got to turn in another performance. But it's got to better again because we are more than capable of going further in this competition."

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