Dan McFarland knows Ulster must be on the money for Leinster showdown
Win over Munster was important but head coach rues not getting a bonus point
Ulster’s head coach Dan McFarland before the win over Munster. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Ulster 15 Munster 10
After a forgettable second half in which replacement Darren Sweetnam scored the only Munster try minutes into injury time and Ulster failed to get a point, there was some obvious frustration from Ulster coach Dan McFarland.
His team had been leading 15-3 at halftime against a light Munster side and reasonably sought two tries in the a second half and a winning bonus point as they sped to their 10th successive conference win.
“It happens a lot when you make that many mistakes,” said McFarland of their scoreless second half. “It was a bit of a nothingness the second half. It was us not quite good enough to score and them sticking in there.”
The “nothingness” after first half tries from Matt Faddes and Ethan McIlroy which, along with a strong defensive game, earned him man of the match, may undo Ulster in the end. They meet Leinster this week in Dublin. While Ulster are 10 points ahead of their opponents after Leinster’s defeat to Connacht, Leo Cullen’s side have eight bonus points to Ulster’s six and the match is now swollen in importance for the Dublin-based side.
McFarland knows that and the scoreless second half in Belfast, as well as a couple of passes that did not stick in the first half, may come back to haunt him. Ulster, he feels, needed to win the bonus point.
“If we could possibly win down there we could put ourselves in a good position for kicking on. If we don’t win down there it’s potentially taken out of our hands because they have scored more bonus points than us. That’s the bottom line,” said the Ulster coach.
“The question you are really asking is are Ulster a better team than Leinster? So effectively over the period of a season are we good enough? We can do it definitely. In terms of the probability on that, well you only have to ask the bookies. Have a look at what the odds are next week. They’ll tell you.
“I think the bookies had us as seven-point favourites today. They were not far off. They are not going to predict us to win next week. That’s the bottom line. Are we capable of winning down there? One hundred per cent but we are going to have to be absolutely on the money. We’ll have to better than this week. But we know that any way.”
With Jacob Stockdale hobbling off with what looked like an ankle issue, there is also a worrying wait for McFarland as he contemplates an Ulster side that lacked precision when it counted and in the end won a match by fewer points than they should have.
Ulster’s first try came when centre James Hume hit Stockdale sweeping forward. The Irish fullback ripped open the Munster defence before delivering to Faddes, a one-handed catch wide right and in after six minutes.
Three minutes later Ben Healy kicked a reply for 5-3 before a needlessly overthrown pass from Faddes to Hume on the wing halted what looked like another promising Ulster attack.
Ulster had more territory and position but the board didn’t show it until the 17th minute when an inventive Billy Burns weighted his kick to the side and forwards, landing it perfectly for McIlroy to scoop and run for the second try, John Cooney converting for 12-3.
McIlroy hit Munster fullback Shane Daly to stop what could have been the first Munster try but, when Matt Rea didn’t roll away, Cooney stepped up to keep the scoreboard turning over with a penalty and 15-3 lead to the home side going into the break.
Then the second half ‘nothingness’ from Ulster began. Leinster this week with Connacht spreading some hope, Ulster the only unbeaten side and Munster tasting the end of a winning streak.
Scoring sequence – 6 mins M Faddes try 5-0; 13 mins B Healy pen 5-3; 17 mins E McIlroy try, J Cooney con 12-3; 29 mins J Cooney pen 15-3. Halftime. 83 mins D Sweetnam try, J Crowley con 15-10.
Ulster: J Stockdale; M Faddes, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McElroy; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore; K Treadwell, S Carter (capt); M Rea, D McCann, N Timoney. Replacements: M Coetzee for Rea, C Reid for O’Sullivan 49 mins; T O’Toole for Moore 52 mins; M Doak for Cooney 66, O’Connor for Carter 66 mins; I Madigan for Burns 72 mins; A McBurney for Herring 73 mins; B Moxham for Stockdale 78 mins; E O’Sullivan for Faddes 82 mins. Yellow: C Reid 81 mins.
Munster: S Daly; C Nash, D Goggin, R Scannell, L Coombes; B Healy, C Casey; L O’Connor, N Scannell, J Ryan; F Wycherley, B Holland (capt); J O’Donoghue, C Cloete, J O’Sullivan. Replacements: R Marshall for Scannnell, D Kilcoyne for O’Connor 52 mins; T Donnell for O’Sullivan 57 mins; J Crowley for Healy 65 mins; N McCarthy for Casey 66 mins; R Salanoa for Ryan 67 mins; T Aherne for Wycherley 68 mins; D Sweetnam for Daly 70 mins Yellow: B Holland (58).
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).