United Rugby Championship: Dan McFarland laments poor finish from Ulster in Munster loss

Head coach Dan McFarland has blasted the late venue change that saw Ulster host La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium rather than Kingspan Stadium in the Champions Cup.  Credit: Alamy
Head coach Dan McFarland has blasted the late venue change that saw Ulster host La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium rather than Kingspan Stadium in the Champions Cup. Credit: Alamy

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was frustrated after his side’s narrow 15-14 loss against Munster in the United Rugby Championship at the weekend.

McFarland’s men led most of the game thanks to a Robert Baloucounne try and three John Cooney penalties before Munster’s Ben Healy scored a decisive try at the end of the game.

It is not Ulster’s first slump in the final stages of a match after only just hanging on against Connacht the week before.

Should have won

The head coach made his thoughts clear, expressing his frustration and believes it was a game that his side should have won.

“We were terrible,” McFarland told RTE. “I don’t want to take anything away from Munster but ever there is a game where we decided our own fate, this is it.

“I think we had the ball 11 times in their 22 and scored once. We lost the ball on 10 occasions, I think I’m right in saying that. The only time we kept the ball through any number of phases, we scored a great try. We lost three lineouts and were profligate with the ball on a lot of occasions.

“To be fair to them, they looked magnificent when they were holding onto the ball. They got the ball three times in our 22 and scored twice. That was the game.”

McFarland was pleased with the defensive efforts at the end of the first period but lamented his team’s poor attack throughout.

“We had one really good set of defence on our line at the end of the first half and I thought that was a turning point, because I didn’t think we could carry on being as poor in attack as we were in the first half, where on occasion we looked careless,” he said.

“It looked like we didn’t care how precious the ball was. Random chip kick over the top during the first half that was not on, it doesn’t make sense. Not catching the ball, turning it over in contact, slow to breakdowns, that was always going to come back and bite us.”

Another poor finish

The Ulster tactician knows his side needs to improve on how they finish games, especially after another late slump.

“It’s a big issue. That’s just soft. I told them that last week,” added McFarland.

“As a team we’ve got to toughen up there. On this occasion, there’s obviously an element of that, but the game was lost when we didn’t take those opportunities to score.”

Munster boss Graham Rowntree was delighted with his players, who showed great character and have improved weekly since beating South Africa ‘A’ in November.

Delight for Munster

He believes the penalty from Healy that reduced the gap to six points was crucial in his side completing the turnaround.

“That penalty decision was vital to take us to eight points,” said Rowntree.

“Then the composure we showed. One thing we have spoken about all week is belief in our fitness. I feel that showed tonight, the way we kept hold of the ball, kept phase in that second half.

“It was good patience and discipline at the end of the game to get the try. I’m immensely proud of the lads.

“All the good stuff we’ve been doing on the field, with Mike Prendergast in particular, is coming out in our game. It’s about keeping the belief.”

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