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Ulster coach left bemused after red card ruins Pro14 dream

Ulster’s Andrew Warwick was dismissed in last night’s 38-19 defeat to Leinster – a defeat that ends their chances of making the final.

Referee, Frank Murphy.
Referee, Frank Murphy.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT WAS A game of numbers: 38 points to Leinster, 19 to Ulster; three yellow cards, one red, 26 penalties – a 10th Pro14 final in 12 years for Leinster and another heartbreaking end to an Ulster season.

They weren’t happy afterwards. Not just with the defeat but also the decisions. Remember they had a try chalked off in the second half, too – a score which would have reduced the gap to five points at a period of the game when they were gaining a bit of momentum.

But even that moment was not the critical one of the evening. That, as far as Ulster coach, Dan McFarland, is concerned, came earlier. 

“Ultimately the game turned on the red card didn’t it? That was it, we got a red card for Andrew Warwick’s forearm to the neck area and that’s what caused it,” said McFarland afterwards.

“There were a few penalties in there that we could certainly have avoided.

“Some of them because were under pressure from them and some of them I didn’t think were penalties, but that would be the same every game.

“The stuff around some of the key decision making in the game is something I’m going to have to discuss with the referees’ manager.”

Both teams at different stages had just 13 men on the pitch after referee, Frank Murphy, gave yellow cards to Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey and Cormac Izuchukwu. Leinster had Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock and Jimmy O’Brien yellow carded. In addition to all that, Robert Baloucoune’s second half try was ruled out.

“The Baloucoune try, in my opinion is an out and out try that’s not blocking,” said McFarland after McCloskey was judged to have obstructed Rhys Ruddock.

“I could be wrong. I don’t think many would think that was blocking, the six steps into make the tackle.”

The Ulster captain, Jordi Murphy, said afterwards that players want more consistency from officials. McFarland was thinking along the same lines.

“To me there was no game after those situations that ended in red and yellow cards and tries and non-tries. There’s no game, it doesn’t appear like a contest because everything is framed in the context what’s happened.

“The only way I can look at is say that in the little bits I saw of them (Leinster) after that, there were very impressive and our efforts to hang in there were really excellent.”

It’s a familiar theme by now – Ulster trying hard, building an early lead against Leinster – but ultimately losing out to them. Can they bridge that gap?

“I’d like to think we can, that the gap has narrowed a lot more than the scoreline says and that’s the really disappointing thing. Maybe that scoreline does say where we are, but I genuinely don’t think so.

“To me the intensity of their play and speed they play at on the front-foot in attack, and also in defence, that’s the impressive thing.

“Other teams just can’t match that. We’re about the closest and Munster are (too), but we’re not close enough to be consistently better than them (Leinster), it’s as simple as that. Do I think we’ll get there, I think so,” he said.

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andrew-warwick-leaves-the-field-due-to-a-red-card Ulster's Andrew Warwick leaves the field after getting a red card. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Afterwards Leinster coach, Leo Cullen, also expressed his view on Murphy’s refereeing performance.

“The way the game is being refereed at the moment is slightly different to what we were used to in the past,” Cullen said. “We will go through the appropriate channels and go through each one on a case by case basis.

“The cards had a big effect on both teams – for us initially and then for Ulster after that.”

A lesson Leinster learned the hard way after last week’s victory over Glasgow was how to play more ruthlessly when they have a numerical advantage. Last night they played smarter rugby.

“We are delighted to get a bonus point win up here as it is tough place to come,” Cullen said on the club’s website. “The lads showed very good endeavour. They brought a good physical edge to it, they took their opportunities and after a bit of a shaky start, when we were 12-3 down, they showed good composure to build their way up the field and then be clinical.

“When we got into the five metres areas, we finished well.”

As a result they are now in a final against old rivals Munster on 27 March. “We want to build a positive momentum going into that final,” said Cullen.

 

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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