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'We nearly tried to beat ourselves at the end' - Relief for Ulster after dramatic win

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland praised his players after defeating Bath in their Champions Cup opener.

Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates at the final whistle.
Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates at the final whistle.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DAN MCFARLAND HAILED the team effort from his Ulster players which saw them clinch a valuable away win in their pool three European Heineken Champions Cup opener at Bath on Saturday afternoon.

Tries in each half by John Cooney and Rob Lyttle helped the PRO14 side make it five straight wins against the English Premiership side in European competition. Scrum-half Cooney converted both and kicked a 70th-minute penalty to seal the win.

Bath kept in touch with two penalties from Freddie Burns before replacement wing Gabriel Hamer-Webb scored their only try, converted by Burns.

Rhys Priestland’s 66th-minute penalty put them ahead for the first time in the match but Cooney, who had missed a similar penalty in front of the posts at the end of the first half, landed a crucial kick.

Reflecting on the 17-16 success, McFarland said:

Today was about a team effort, whether it is a man of the match or not we dogged that out and nearly tried to beat ourselves at the end, but we dogged it out.”

McFarland added that the importance of an away win at the start of the campaign was massive.

jacob-stockdale-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Ulster sealed a one-point win over Bath on Saturday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“In a competition where there are six games and five wins does not necessarily ensure you a play-off place, it is pretty crucial. Bath stuck it to us and they are really physical and we had to match them there, set piece wise we did a good job.

“Defensively we did a good job and sure they have some threats on the bench.

We got two tries out of turnover ball which was really pleasing from the lads and for Jarred Payne (defence coach).”

However, one area of focus for Ulster going forwards as their lack of time with the ball. Last week against Munster in the PRO14 they had ball for 13 minutes in the game, on Saturday at The Rec it was something similar.

And with Clermont Auvergne coming to Belfast on Friday night McFarland knows he wants improvement.

“It (not having the ball) is not sustainable. You cannot afford to give up that much possession and for us as a team, I look at the way we attack and the kind of things that we can create when we create fast ball and not all of it was pretty today.

“Bath made it really difficult in the collision area. But when you know what you can do with the ball in hand, we have got to treat it as precious.

But we are not risk averse either, you do end up turning the ball over, but as I say it is not sustainable.

“If we give Clermont that much ball next week, they will torture us!”


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However, McFarland is looking forward to the challenge the French side will provide at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

john-cooney-scores-a-try John Cooney scoring a try for Ulster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Having won away today, we need to back it up and it is a huge challenge, and we all understand that.

“It will be a great occasion. Kingspan/Ravenhill is a great place to play in Europe against French teams. Our evening last year against Racing 92 was a special occasion.

“The players relish that, the fans relish that, as a coach I remember talking about afterwards keeping my emotions in check. People love it because it is such a big challenge, such a big task to beat a star-studded team with such huge players, but it is one that we will tuck into.”

Bath captain Charlie Ewels admitted it was a tough defeat to take given the amount of possession and opportunities they had.

“That is the European Cup, it comes down to fine margins. We could have done more with our opportunities and did not.

“Ulster took their opportunities and scored. We will have a look at those things and see why we did not make it count.

“We got a point today so it is something and we know that if you can get to 19 or 20 points then you can make the knockout stages. We have to make sure we get the result at Harlequins this weekend.”

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Richard Mulligan

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