Dan McFarland ‘proud’ despite Ulster defeats in South Africa

Dan McFarland maintained he was proud of his Ulster team despite losing both games on their South African mini-tour.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 6:54 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 6:56 pm

Ulster were in control against the Bulls in Pretoria at half-time, leading 9-3 as the home side failed to fire a shot in the first 40 minutes.

However, the Bulls were a different animal in the second half, scoring four tries.

Ulster left South Africa with one point from their two fixtures and have watched Leinster extend their lead at the top of the United Rugby Championship to 10 points after bonus point wins against at Connacht and Munster in their last two fixtures.

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Ulster rugby head coach Dan McFarland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ulster remain second in the table, but Glasgow have drawn level on points with McFarland’s side.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done out here, we’ve come away with one point, our performances deserved four points,” stated McFarland.

“Obviously we want two wins but it’s tough out here in these conditions.

“Everything is lot tougher than it is back home but I’m really proud of the way that the whole group - the support staff, the players - have knuckled down and really worked hard.

“I believe that will stand to us going forward,” he added.

“It puts us in a much more difficult place in the URC now but there are a lot of really good teams in the URC, and we’ll all be fighting over those top spots - that makes it exciting.

“The Bulls were a good team on Saturday but overall, I’m very proud of the work the guys have done, the work they’ve done off the field and what the support staff have done to make sure we’re properly prepared.”

McFarland, like at the Stormers last, week felt the officials got a big call wrong.

Luke Marshall had scored a converted try to get Ulster within four points of the Bulls but lock Kieran Treadwell was sin-binned a minute later.

“I personally don’t think it is a yellow card, he has tackled the ball and come in for very slight contact with the head, so how many yellow cards are we going to see from now on if you make a tackle that comes in at the right height in the right place and then it manages to just touch the head?” said McFarland.

“If they are all going to be yellow cards from now on, OK that is fine with me, but I do expect to see that for everyone from now on.”

Scrum-half Nathan Doak nudged Ulster in front with an 11th minute penalty.

Bulls out-half Chris Smith missed a kick off the tee before landing one to level the scores on 24 minutes.

Doak added two more penalties in the last 10 minutes of the first half to give Ulster a six-point lead at the break.

Former Ulster back row Marcell Coetzee got the Bulls first try from close range, Smith converted and added a penalty.

Winger Madosh Tambwe profited from a mix-up in the Ulster defence to sprint over for the Bulls second try on 56 minutes with Smith converting.

After Marshall’s try on 64 minutes and Treadwell’s yellow card, hooker Johan Grobbelaar crossed from a maul with Morne Steyn converting.

The Bulls wrapped up their bonus point try with four minutes remaining, full-back Kurt-Lee Arendse intercepting a Doak pass in his own 22 and going all the way.

Bulls: KL Arendse, C Moodie, C Hendricks, H Vorster, M Tambwe; C Smith, Z Burger; G Steenekamp, J Grobbelaar, M Smith; W Steenkamp, R Nortje, M Coetzee (capt), C Brink, E Louw.

Replacements: J van Zyl, S Matanzima for Steenkamp 65 mins, R Hunt for M Smith 65 mins, R Ludwig for W Steenkamp 74 mins, A Botha for Brink 41 mins, K Johannes for Burger 73 mins, M Steyn for C Smith 64 mins, L Mapoe for Hendricks 68 mins.

Ulster: M Lowry, B Moxham, J Hume, L Marshall, E McIlroy, I Madigan, N Doak, A Warwick, B Roberts, M Moore, K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt), J Murphy, N Timoney, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: T Stewart for Roberts 49 mins, E O’Sullivan for Warwick 49 mins, T O’Toole for Moore 49 mins, M Kearney, Matty Rea for Vermeulen 50 mins, J Cooney for Madigan 64 mins, Marcus Rea for Murphy 62 mins, S Moore for McIlroy 2 mins.

Referee: A Piardi (Italy).