Richie Murphy. Manuel Blondeau/INPHO

'We weren’t good enough - and there’s a lot of stuff we need to look at'

Richie Murphy, Ulster’s interim head coach, said his side must use the hurt from this defeat and produce a strong finish to the season.

ULSTER’S INTERIM HEAD coach Richie Murphy could only admit that his side simply weren’t up to the mark in the wake of their 53-14 mauling at Clermont.

The province conceded seven tries and surrendered 33 unanswered points in the second half at Stade Marcel-Michelin as they exited the European Challenge Cup quarter-final stages with little more than a whimper.

This was only Murphy’s fourth game in charge of the struggling squad and this game bore little resemblance to last week’s victory in Montpellier when the discipline of the home team imploded.

“We weren’t good enough,” Murphy said, “and there’s a lot of stuff we need to look at, but we were very aware of that before this.

“Anyone who has been here (Stade Marcel-Michelin) knows how tough it is once they get on top of you and they finished it off pretty well.

“Once the momentum goes against you . . . and we obviously lost a few set-pieces as well and coughed up ball under defensive pressure and they punished us on the back of that.

“There’s no real answer to that,” he added.

“The scoreboard pressure swings the crowd pressure and it all swings on top of you.

“We got ourselves back in the game at half-time (Ulster trailed 20-14) but we weren’t accurate enough in the second half and we struggled with the power of Clermont.”

And looking ahead to now solely focusing on the URC – Ulster lie in eighth spot with five rounds to go before the play-offs – Murphy was keen to draw a line under what occurred in the Auvergne.

“We’ve been beaten in a quarter-final of a European competition, you move on,” he said.

“We’ll look at it as a chance to learn and improve but ultimately it doesn’t define the rest of the season, we’ve a totally different competition to go into and that’s where our focus will be now.

“We have to qualify in the top eight of the URC and we’ve got two home games and have played four away games over the last four weeks and to have two home games back-to-back is a new focus and we’ll have to rotate some of our players as they have been through a tough three or four weeks.

“Although we’re coming off a very heavy loss that feeling of hurt will probably drive the lads on a little bit, we’re very aware of where we are at this moment in time.”

Michael Sadlier
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