Ulster can’t feel sorry for themselves insists skipper Alan O’Connor

After wins at Leinster and Clermont Ulster had a great opportunity to taste victory at another of Europe’s iconic rugby stadiums Thomond Park.

Sunday, 9th January 2022, 9:40 pm

James McKinney’s 14-point haul in 2014 helped Ulster to their last victory in Limerick.

In Saturday night’s United Rugby Championship game things couldn’t have started any better for Dan McFarland’s side.

Rob Herring was propelled over from a driving maul after seven minutes for a converted try. Seven minutes later Munster were reduced to 14 men as Ireland winger Simon Zebo was red carded for a shoulder to the face of Michael Lowry.

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Ulster captain Alan O'Connor. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Instead of kicking on and making their advantage count Ulster went into their shells and allowed Munster to turn the game into an arm wrestle with Ireland’s Tadgh Beirne imperious at the breakdown and around the park.

Ulster could only muster two penalties in the 66 minutes that had a numerical advantage, skipper Alan O’Connor thought it was a case of Munster rising to the occasion and poor game management from Ulster.

“I don’t think it is physiological, I think it was just maybe decision making and I think they actually played quite well,” said the lock.

“At the start of the second half we had a couple of opportunities in their 22. They hung in there and we could have been better a couple of times, fair play to Munster they dug in and then when we got our yellow card 14 on 14 it was a key part of the game.

“They got pressure on our lineout as they do with most teams, and they are going to rob one or two because they are who they are and they defend really well.

“They got a good lineout steal as well, they had two in the first half, and they mixed up how they were defending a bit so obviously we need to adjust.

“They adjusted well, even though they had a man less the conditions were tough to play in so it is tough to put your finger on one thing.

“I think the posts we took a couple were far out and a couple were straight in front, you have to weigh up the conditions build score board pressure against 14 men, and see if you can get ahead and see if you can get them playing a bit more with 14 men.”

Ulster turn their attention to Europe for the next two weeks and O’Connor believes the defeat in Limerick won’t dent the side’s confidence as they travel to Northampton on Sunday.

“No I don’t think so,” he said. “Every game is different, this one definitely stings because if you were to say we were playing against 14 men for a good bit of the game you’d say we’d come away with the win.

“We won’t let that affect the rest of the season or the next two games. We’ll take our learning from it and rebuild, you can’t feel sorry for yourself because if you do, going into Europe you are probably going to get another loss.

“It is going to be tight up there, so we’ll have to see how we go, we have definitely started well, and the next two weeks are going to be really important.”

After Herring’s try Jack Crowley landed two penalties for the home team.

Nathan Doak was on target with a late first half penalty to give Ulster a 10-6 lead at the interval and the scrum half slotted another kick after the break.

Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell was sin binned on 59 minutes for a dangerous tackle and Munster profited immediately with an unconverted try from full back Mike Haley.

Replacement flanker Alex Kendellen got the match winning try with four minutes remaining which Ben Healy converted.