“Cardiff had been playing well, they are a tough team and I’m really pleased with the result,” said McFarland. “I knew if it came down to persistence and grind we weren’t going to be lacking in that area.
“We could have made it easier for ourselves in terms of the way we played and game management, particularly at points in the second half where we made some really good play then didn’t manage to make that pay be putting the ball down into their 22 - we can definitely be better there.
“We can be better and a little more ruthless in our play in the opposition 22 and it seemed like we spent an eternity on their line but I take a lot of positives from that.
“Playing against a team like Cardiff they steal balls at rucks for fun, they are the toughest team in the league to play there, they have some of the best jackelers in the league I think.
“They have four of the top five jackel threats and we knew that was going to be difficult.
“Before half-time we managed to hang on to the ball and persist and in the end it was a little bit of broken-up play with us going backwards with Michael Lowry adapting and it was a great bit of persistence.
“The time was ticking away and from having plenty of time to score the try we were then down to a scrum with a minute to go.”
Ulster made it four wins out of four in the Pro14 with a hard-fought win over the Cardiff Blues.
The game was affected by the wind and rain in Newport but a sublime piece of skill from full back Michael Lowry and some solid defence proved enough for Dan McFarland’s side to get over the line.
Ulster had a lucky escape in the opening minute, they failed to secure their own lineout ball in Cardiff’s half, Blues scrum half Lewis Jones hacked on twice and Ulster out half Billy Burns won the foot race to dot down over his own try line.
Ulster wasted a couple of chances in the Cardiff 22, the first came from a loose Billy Burns pass and the second when they turned down a kickable penalty to go for the corner but the lineout wasn’t straight.
Ulster took the lead on 16 minutes when a strong run from lock Kieran Treadwell earned a penalty and John Cooney slotted over via the upright.
The penalty brought a milestone for the Ulster scrum half as he moved past 500 career points in the Pro14.
Cardiff got the game’s first try on 22 minutes with a well-executed move on 22.
From a lineout No8 Will Boyde came onto a crash ball in midfield he carried close to the Ulster 22, with the visitors’ defence flat, Blues out half Jarrod Evans chipped over the top for centre Rey Lee-Lo to gather and dart over, Evans added the conversion.
Lowry’s try gave Ulster an 8-7 lead at the break.
Ulster were camped in the Cardiff 22 for 12 minutes, they kept opting for scrum penalties as the Welsh side constantly infringed.
From one scrum on 37 minutes Cooney darted from the base he was stopped short but Cardiff backrow Olly Robinson failed to release.
Ulster kept probing Cardiff, kept infringing until from another scrum with the clock in the red Lowry fielded a sloppy pass on the 22 showed a great turn of pace beat three tacklers to score, Cooney missed the simple conversion.
Evans missed a simple plenty from straight in front of the Ulster posts after Jordi Murphy was punished at the ruck.
Both sides wasted chances in the opposition 22, Sean Reidy’s steal at the ruck prevented Cardiff scoring, while Lowry couldn’t hold onto a pass as Ulster pressed.
Cooney extended Ulster’s lead to four points on 64 minutes with a penalty after Cardiff prop Scott Andrews came into a ruck for an offside position.
Stuart McCloskey made an important tackle in his own 22 to preserve Ulster’s lead on 70 minutes.
Cardiff worked an overlap on the left wing, Hallam Amos ignored his support and went for the line himself but the Ireland centre was able to put him down and avert the danger.
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; A Summerhill, R Lee-Lo, G Smith, H Amos, J Evans, L Jones, C Domachowski, K Dacey, D Arhip, J Ratti, R Thornton, J Turnbull, J Botham, W Boyde.
Replacements: E Lewis for Dacey 74 mins, B Thyer for Domachowski 56 mins, S Andrews for Arhip 56 mins, B Murphy for Ratti 56 mins, O Robinson for Botham 28 mins, J Hill, for Jones, J Tovey for Smith 56 mins, O Lane for Summerhill 62 mins.
Ulster: M Lowry, C Gilroy, S Moore, S McCloskey, L Ludik, B Burns, J Cooney, E O’Sullivan, A McBurney, M Moore, A O’Connor, K Treadwell, M Rea, J Murphy, N Timoney.
Replacements: J Andrew for McBurney 47 mins, J McGrath for O’Sullivan 47 mins, R Kane for M Moore 68 mins, S Carte for O’Connor 56 minsr, S Reidy for Timoney 47 mins, A Mathewson for Burns 71 mins, L Marshall for S Moore 52 mins, E McIlroy for Ludik 23 mins.
Referee: S Grove-White.