Ulster coach McFarland admits fears turned to cheers for Cooney try

‘John told me that he has been practising that move for years,’ says coach after win over Clermont

Ulster scrumhalf  John Cooney gathers the ball to score a try during the  Heineken Champions Cup match against Clermont Auvergne at Kingspan stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ulster scrumhalf John Cooney gathers the ball to score a try during the Heineken Champions Cup match against Clermont Auvergne at Kingspan stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland admitted John Cooney’s match-winning try in the 18-13 success against Clermont Auvergne left him with his heart in his mouth.

Cooney’s 62nd-minute score, when he kicked through near the Clermont line and then controlled the ball with his feet to touch down, ensured that Ulster have two wins from two to lead Pool 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

“John has got lots of tricks in his bag and he is an incredibly skilful player and it was a great bit of play from him,” said McFarland.

“John told me that he has been practising that move for years, when he breaks blind and chips, but that he has never actually done it in a game. So he pulls it out of the bag in a Champions Cup game!

“When I was watching him from the box there was a big shout of ‘no’ followed by a big shout of ‘yes!’.”

Cooney’s try put Ulster 18-6 in front in what was a tight game, with Clermont’s late penalty try bringing the French side a losing bonus point to leave them two points behind the Irish province.

“Any time in the Champions Cup when you play a French giant and you manage to win the game you have to be happy with that,” stated the Ulster coach.

“There was a lot to be pleased about in that performance, particularly with the way we limited their opportunities whenever they had the ball in hand.

“That was going to be the real threat and I said before the game that as a pack we had to bring collective pressure and we had to do that consistently. I felt that we did that.

“I thought we showed some real attacking glimpses of what we can do in attack. If we had been a little more clinical right at the end we would have had two more tries and they wouldn’t have got a bonus point. But it was pleasing.”

Jordi Murphy scored Ulster’s other try, converted by Cooney who also kicked two penalties — as did Clermont scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw.

Though disappointed at losing the game, Laidlaw was still pleased to come away with a bonus point from the clash.

“In a tournament like the Champions Cup it is important to pick up as many points as you can,” said the Scot.

“We knew it would be tough coming here and obviously we wanted to win, but to come away with a bonus point keeps us well in the group.”

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