Dan McFarland ‘not biggest fan’ of Rainbow Cup as Ulster sign off with victory

Ulster coach Dan McFarland hopes the Rainbow Cup is just a one-season wonder.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:00 pm

The new competition was introduced to help the four South African franchises to acclimatise before joining an expanded Pro16 next season and give the Springbok players some much needed game time before facing the British and Irish Lions in the summer.

However due to Covid-19 travel restrictions there were no cross-hemisphere games.

Ulster won 14 out of 16 matches in the Pro14 but were denied knockout rugby as the season was cut short to accommodate the new tournament, with only the two pool winners going straight to the final.

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Stuart McCloskey of Ulster breaks clear before his first half try during the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup match against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Paul Devlin/Dicksondigital

There were baffling new rules to contend with like the captain’s challenge and the five metre dropout which appeared to disadvantage attacking teams.

“I’m not the biggest fan of the Rainbow Cup, at the moment Munster and Treviso are maybe but not many teams, but it couldn’t be helped,” said McFarland.

“It would have been great if we had been able to play out the Pro14 but at that point we wanted the South African teams to be involved in some way and this is the only way it has been possible to do it.

“Losing that semi-final (Leicester European Challenge Cup) and our focus on that semi-final caused us to probably stall at the start line and we missed the chance to beat the Scarlets at home, but a lot of guys played rugby in that period and got a chance so that was a bonus from it.”

McFarland paid tribute to those leaving the Kingspan Stadium now that the season has concluded.

“Dwayne (Peel) has been a stalwart for me, he has been a brilliant right-hand man and more than anything he has been a top bloke,” he said.

“He is always positive and he is always there for me if I need advice, the guys have played well under him and I wish him all the best at the Scarlets.

“Matt Faddes is a top fellow and he did a really good job for us, Matt was signed as a utility back and we have a lot of talented backs here.

“Matt was signed to make sure if we needed a guy to play centre, wing or full back he’d do that job and he scored a lot of tries for us and is a really talented rugby player,” McFarland added.

“Alby (Mathewson) has been brilliant, he didn’t play as much as he would have liked and had a couple of niggles in the last year and he was a superb person to have around.

“Adam McBurney - I would have loved him to stay but he felt it was time to move on and he’ll do a really good job in Edinburgh.

“Kyler (Kyle McCall) he is such a top bloke, I’m pleased he played so well against Edinburgh. He loves Ulster Rugby and has been a terrific servant.”

Ulster finished the campaign with a 34-31 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield to move off the bottom of the table in an action packed game that saw 10 tries and four yellow cards shared equally among the teams.

Tries from Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn helped Edinburgh into a 12-0 lead after seven minutes.

James Hume and Iain Henderson touched down for Ulster while Hamish Watson and WP Nel were yellow carded for the home team.

Centre Stuart McCloskey got Ulster’s third try on 28 minutes and McBurney wrapped up the bonus point, powering over from a maul to give the visitors a 26-12 half time lead.

Rob Lyttle got another score for Ulster before the Edinburgh fightback.

Michael Lowry and Nick Timoney were yellow carded in quick succession and Edinburgh scored two tries from Pierre Schoeman and Cammy Hutchinson.

Eroni Sau scored an unconverted try for the home side to level the scores at 31-31 but out half Ian Madigan won it for Ulster with an injury time penalty.

Ulster: R Lyttle, M Faddes, J Hume, S McCloskey, C Gilroy; I Madigan, D Shanahan, K McCall, A McBurney, M Moore, A O’Connor, I Henderson (capt); Matthew Rea, Marcus Rea, N Timoney.

Replacements: R Herring for McBurney 45 mins, A Warwick for McCall 45 mins, T O’Toole for Moore 45 mins, K Treadwell for O’Connor 61 mins, G Jones for Marcus Rea 54 mins, A Mathewson for Shanahan 65 mins, B Burns for Madigan 41 mins, M Lowry for Faddes 41 mins

Ref B Whitehouse (WRU).

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