Dan McFarland frustrated as Ulster lose against Ospreys

Ulster’s euphoria of beating defending champions Leinster in their own back yard didn’t last long as Dan McFarland’s side slipped to a disappointing 19-13 defeat against the Ospreys in Swansea.

Sunday, 5th December 2021, 4:04 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th December 2021, 4:12 pm

Ulster went into the weekend joint top of the table but slipped to third in the league after Leinster and Edinburgh both enjoyed bonus-point wins in the United Rugby Championship.

McFarland was understandably frustrated with the result and performance.

“In order to have a cutting edge you’ve got to have quick, front-foot ball, you don’t create cutting edge off just hoping,” he said.

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Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“We never created the momentum that would have allowed us to do that.

“They defended really well, very aggressive, they were hard on our ball.

“A lot of the time I thought their assist tackler didn’t release which made it very difficult to create quick ball but fair play to them, I’m not saying they were totally illegal and should have been penalised every time.

“In terms of getting over the gain-line, that’s the main thing in getting momentum, and it’s getting quick ball,” he added. “We weren’t in motion when we were running onto the ball, it’s easy to say that but when the opposition is barred up and ready to go but it’s something you’ve got to do, you’ve got to move onto the ball, you’ve got to accelerate onto the ball.

“The guys who are supporting have to get the guys out of the way so that if you do manage to get a little bit of front football then you can create quick ball off the floor.

“We weren’t doing that, it was difficult, they’re a big team, they’re very physical, and they were working hard but we didn’t generate that.”

McFarland has vowed to make changes for the European opener against Clermont on Saturday.

“It’ll definitely play into selection, in a positive way in terms of guys who are going to get an opportunity to play against Clermont,” he said.

One positive from the game for Ulster was the return of Jack McGrath for a hip injury which kept him out of action for over a year.

“It is great, he’d have liked it to have been in different circumstances,” added McFarland.

“It’s been a long road back, a painful road back, he’s a top man, he’s a big club man, and it’s really good to have him training, bringing that competitive spirit.

“He’s a British Lion and he brings that credibility and standing, he’ll take some time to get into the run of things as he goes forward but he’s a big part of our squad.”

Despite having 82 pre-cent possession in the opening quarter and 74 per-cent territorial advantage, Ulster only had a penalty try and a John Cooney penalty to show for their dominance. The penalty try was awarded on 14 minutes as Ospreys winger Luke Morgan deliberately knocked on Cooney’s pass which was destined for David McCann with an open try-line.

Stephen Myler and Cooney exchanged penalties before Ospreys No8 Morgan Morris crashed over for a converted try on 31 minutes.

Another Myler penalty gave the Ospreys a 13-10 half-time lead.

Cooney restored parity with a 50th minute penalty but two more Myler kicks sealed the win for the Welsh region.

Ospreys: M Nagy, A Cuthbert, M Collins, O Watkin, L Morgan, S Myler, R Webb (C), G Thomas, S Parry, T Francis, R Davies, B Davies; W Griffiths, J Morgan, M Morris. Replacements: E Taione for Parry 58 mins, N Smith for Thomas 57 mins, T Botha for Francis 67 mins, J Regan for Davies 68 mins, E Roots for Griffiths 57 mins, R Morgan-Williams for Webb 57 mins, G Anscombe for Nagy 29 mins, T Thomas-Wheeler.

Ulster: M Lowry, R Baloucoune, A Curtis, S McCloskey, E McIlroy, B Burns, J Cooney, E O’Sullivan, B Roberts, T O’Toole, K Treadwell, A O’Connor (C), S Reidy, N Timoney, D McCann. Replacements: T Stewart for Roberts 31 mins, J McGrath for O’Sullivan 46 mins M Moore for O’Toole 47 mins, M Kearney for O’Connor 51 mins, M Rea for McCann 63 mins, N Doak for Cooney 57 mins, S Moore for Curtis 57 mins, C Gilroy for Baloucoune 78 mins.

Ref: S Grove-White (SRU)