tough night

'I genuinely thought we would come down here and give a good account of ourselves'

Dan McFarland is trying to extract the positives from Ulster’s record defeat at Thomond Park.

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

MUNSTER ON CLOUD nine, but this was a brutal reality check for Ulster, as their unbeaten start to the season came to a shuddering halt with a record defeat, this 64-7 scoreline eclipsing their 56-3 loss to Wasps back in 1997.

A view of the final score Ulster slumped to a record defeat tonight. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Dan McFarland arrived with an injury-ravaged and depleted squad and the early loss of Iain Henderson and John Cooney only compounded their woes, with Munster taking full advantage to run in nine tries. 

The hosts were in rampant form as they romped to an emphatic, if not low-key, inter-pro victory, putting last Friday’s disappointing loss in Cardiff behind them with an aggressive and clinical performance.

For Ulster, this was a tough night at the office as they were bullied into submission and a reminder of just how brittle their squad is, when the likes of Rory Best, Marcell Coetzee, Jacob Stockdale, Rob Herring and Jordi Murphy are all unavailable.

Indeed, the record 64-7 defeat in Limerick sees Ulster come crashing back down to earth after they had started the season with three wins and a draw under McFarland.

“I didn’t realise that,” the head coach said, when told it was the province’s record loss.

“It’s not good, is it?”

He eventually elaborated. 

“What did I make of it? How did the game go? I thought we put in a couple of good defensive sets to start with and then suffered a really unlucky ricochet which ended in seven points and then missed a tackle, which is very unlike us, and that resulted in 14 points.

“We lost John Cooney and Iain Henderson and we were under the cosh. There was a little bit of momentum for Munster, we played some nice stuff, and then as the game went, the momentum built [for Munster].”

Ulster found themselves 29-0 down at the break, as Dan Goggin and Tommy O’Donnell scored two tries apiece, before Munster crossed five times in the second period to inflict more pain on the visitors.

When asked if their recent two-game trip to South Africa had a part to play in his side’s performance, McFarland said: “We looked as if we were suffering physically, and as coaches we might need to look at that after a very tough South African trip.

“I certainly thought the five-day turnaround in South Africa had an impact.”

Darren Cave dejected after conceding a try It was a tough night for the northern province. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

McFarland insists there was certainly no shortage of effort from his players, who looked out on their feet by the 80th minute, as Munster — led by Peter O’Mahony — relentlessly hammered away.

“There’s no questioning the effort. You’ve got young fellas out there and you ask them to go out and play in that a scenario… I’ve been here before, I was here the week that Anthony [Foley] died with Glasgow and when there’s meaning and importance to a game at Thomond Park, and you get put on the back foot, it’s a difficult place to be.

“That’s where we found ourselves.

“I genuinely thought we would come down here and give a good account of ourselves, and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line. We have to go away, take stock and take our medicine.”

McFarland confirmed that Henderson was withdrawn at the end of a first quarter for a HIA, but was unable to clarify if Cooney did the same, stating that he initially thought it was a blood replacement. 

Amidst the gloom of a massively disappointing, and harrowing, night for Ulster, the Englishman was keen to extract the positives.

“The attacking play we demonstrated against a really good defence, and when we move the ball with pace we’re dangerous,” he added.

“I felt we were very threatening when we managed to move the ball. Little tip-ons from the forwards, so there were certainly little bits and pieces about that. Some of the individual performances were really outstanding. Adam McBurney, Al O’Connor, Nick Timoney.

“In amongst the worst-ever defeat for Ulster, there will be things that shine out but they’ll be difficult to find over the next 24 hours because other stuff will be staring me in the face.” 

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