Alex James/INPHO Sean Reidy gets knocked back by Kieran Williams on Saturday.
coughed up

'With five minutes to go it was our game': McFarland rues naive finish against lowly Ospreys

The Welsh side grabbed just their second win of the season with a late penalty.

ULSTER HEAD COACH Dan McFarland described his team as naive after they became only the second side to lose to the Ospreys this season in the pouring rain of the Liberty Stadium.

The northern province are still riding high in the Guinness PRO14 and are in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup, but this defeat was a huge disappointment to McFarland.

Tries from Robert Baloucoune, Matt Faddes and Stuart McCloskey had seen Ulster lead by a point with 10 minutes to go, but they were outdone at the last.

“I’m really disappointed,” McFarland said, “but I’d like to say well done to the Ospreys. It was a battling performance from them and I thought they deserved the victory even though with five minutes to go it was our game.

“They played well in the first half and put some tries on the board. The game was ours in the second half. We did a really good job of getting back into the lead… the first half was the most disappointing. We were naive in messing about in our own 22 which gave them opportunities to score tries.”

Ulster had trailed 18-10 at the break. Luke Price kicked an early home penalty before Baloucoune responded following fine approach work from centre McCloskey. Billy Burns converted.

Ospreys, who have had a horror season, hit back with tries from Owen Watkin and Scott Otten with Price adding a conversion and penalty. Burns responded with another three points.

The home forwards impressed in awful conditions and Otten grabbed his second early in the second half before Ulster got on the comeback trail.

marcell-coetzee Alex James / INPHO Coetzee draws breath during the loss. Alex James / INPHO / INPHO

McFarland unloaded his bench and saw Faddes dummy over before McCloskey collected a fine cross-kick from Bill Johnston – who impressed as a replacement – to score.

Ulster had all the momentum, but they threw victory away as Price slotted a late penalty and Johnston’s drop goal attempt with the clock in the red was charged down. Ulster are still second in Conference B regardless and will look to bounce back at home to Cheetahs on Saturday.

“We’ve lost a game to a side that until today had only won one game this season,” said McFarland.

If you look at the Cheetahs’ run in, they have the easiest fixture list in the league and we’re also competing with Glasgow who are on really good form. We have to keep winning games.

“This was a game which was really important. It’s not the end of the world, but it makes our game with the Cheetahs all the more important.”

McFarland stayed tight-lipped on speculation linking his backs coach and former Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel with the vacant head coach role at the Ospreys.

Peel is understood to have been on the shortlist to succeed Allen Clarke, but Toby Booth – currently with Harlequins – is now favourite for the role.

“Dwayne is under contract with us and we don’t comment on speculation,” said McFarland.

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