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'It's one week after another' - Cooney continues to shine for McFarland's Ulster

The scrum-half’s superb form rolled on last night in London.

JOHN COONEY IS standing alongside him in the media room at the Twickenham Stoop as he speaks and Ulster boss Dan McFarland can’t quite resist getting a dig in, but he also delivers the praise that has been hard-earned.

Cooney was man of the match once again for Ulster last night as they racked up a bonus-point 34-10 win away to Harlequins to keep their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final bid firmly on track.

john-cooney-celebrates-scoring-a-try Cooney scored two tries for Ulster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The scrum-half scored two of Ulster’s five tries and contributed 19 of their 34 points in total, but the moment that pleased McFarland most was without the ball.

“It’s one week after another,” said McFarland afterwards. “There was a great moment there and people will look at it, we have spent five minutes trying to work out how he managed to grubber the ball through off that ruck and we cannot actually work out how he did it. I asked him afterwards and he doesn’t know how he did it!

“The bit that I loved was him chasing back to tackle Ross Chisholm. That was a pretty crucial stage in the game and for John to show us the pace to be able to do that but also the energy is fantastic – it is all symptomatic of what all the guys in the team would do.

“He is playing well, definitely… don’t worry his head won’t get too big, it’s big enough already!”

While Cooney’s claims for a start in the Six Nations with Ireland continue to grow with each impactful performance, Ulster’s Europan campaign continues to be successful after their fourth win in four games in Pool 3.

They now head into the Pro14 inter-provincial derbies but their two remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures in January – away to Clermont and then home to Bath – won’t be far from McFarland’s thinking.

“We’ve got two games -  you top your group and you have a good chance of a home quarter-final,” said McFarland. “In order to get to that we have to get past a certain Clermont. It’s a brilliant place and something that everyone should experience and we will look forward to that.

dan-mcfarland-during-the-warm-up McFarland's men are four from four in the Champions Cup. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“In addition to that, we will have a star-studded Bath team that visits us in the end. If you want to win your group we have to win both those games, it’s as simple as that.”

His team’s five-try showing in London, with rain falling for the second half, left McFarland a happy man last night.

“I think the fact we adapted the way we were playing in the second half and really wrestled control in really difficult conditions,” said the Ulster boss of what had pleased him most.

“In the first half, we knew Harlequinks were going to be physical, we expected them to come out physical, and I think they took us a little bit by surprise, especially in the channel around nine. They are big men, they have some seriously big men in their forwards and we came out second best in that first half.

“The try at the end of the first half [through Cooney] was obviously a big boost, but the way we managed the game in the second half, both territorially with the quality of our kicking there and pinning them back into the corners, but also in the fact that we managed our phase play a little bit better and squeezed out a couple of scores.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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