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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 13 May 2021

'It was greasy and cold, but I still wanted us to be ambitious'

Ulster coach Dan McFarland hailed his side’s second-half effort in yielding a perfect 10 from back-to-backs against the Scarlets.

ULSTER HEAD COACH Dan McFarland admitted that upping the intensity in the second half helped his side to a 30-15 bonus point win over Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium.

It means Ulster have taken the maximum haul from their back-to-back games against the west Wales outfit, whose elimination from the tournament has now been confirmed.

As for the Irish province, their destiny is firmly in their own hands after their second consecutive bonus point, meaning wins against Racing 92 and Leicester in the final two pool matches would send them into the knockouts for the first time in 2014.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try with Tommy O'Toole Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And McFarland believes that pushing up the tempo after a turgid first half helped them over the line to a vital five points in another convincing performance.

“I’m really satisfied with the result, obviously five points and 10 points from two games against the Scarlets is a situation which any team would be pleased with due to the quality of opposition they are,” said the head coach.

“In terms of the performance there was lots in that that we’d be very happy with.

“We were a little bit disappointing going in at half-time (Ulster led 10-3) in the fact that we hadn’t pushed the game on so there was an intensity in our defence which wasn’t quite at the level we wanted it to be.

“We’d also turned over a couple of balls and lost them in contact, we spoke about that at half-time and we spoke about not giving them access in the second half and I felt that third quarter albeit for the exceptional intercept try we did that.

“The conditions were difficult, it was greasy and cold but I still wanted us to be ambitious and I still wanted to play at a high tempo.

“A lot of the ball was slowed down by double tackles and we didn’t move the ball as much in the forwards but there was far more intensity in our play in that third quarter of the second half.”

One of the key turning points could have been Jonathan Davies’ try shortly after the restart that was completely against the run of play when Gareth Davies intercepted a pass on his own five metre line.

Will Addison with Jonathan Davies Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

But Ulster responded in the perfect fashion by scoring two minutes later when a beautiful crossfield kick from Billy Burns landed perfectly in the hands of Jacob Stockdale for their second try.

“It was against the run of play, it could be described as a 14-point turnaround but the question for us was retaining our composure and understanding what was working for us and regrouping and going back down there, and we’ve got a very good group of leaders in there who are composed,” praised McFarland.

The Englishman added on Burns’ kicking, which led to Stockdale’s try and helped set up Henderson’s second: “It was very good. We went into the first game talking about being able to play a good kicking strategy against them and there aren’t many players better at it than Billy.

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“It’s just a question of the decision making around that and I thought Billy was really good and played really well.”

Although the attention will inevitably drift towards that mouthwatering clash with Racing in January at Kingspan Stadium, there is the small matter of the festive inter-pros for Ulster to contend with in the meantime.

Munster are the visitors to Belfast next Friday, before trips to Galway to take on Connacht and Dublin to face Leinster follow in quick succession, with Ulster perched precariously in third in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.

Next week’s game will be a chance to exact revenge for their Thomond Park mauling back in September, and McFarland insists that his and the team’s thoughts extend no further than that clash.

“We’re coming into a difficult stretch now,” said the head coach.

“We’ve got Munster, Connacht and Leinster coming up which will be very difficult but if you’re striving to where we want to go then it’s really important that we put in performances against our neighbours.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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