We were masters of our own downfall says Dan McFarland
Coach Dan McFarland felt Ulster were masters of their own downfall after suffering a second Pro14 defeat of the season, losing 22-16 in the Irish derby against Munster at Thomond Park.
Ulster did manage to come away from Limerick with a losing bonus point but go into Europe nine points behind Conference A leaders, Leinster, after Leo Cullen’s side had an empathic bonus point win over Connacht in Galway.
Ulster turned the ball over seven times and missed 16 tackles as Munster outscored them by three tries to one.
“To put yourself in a position where you are a point ahead after 63/64 minutes and the game is there for the taking, then to lose it is really disappointing,” said McFarland.
“But ultimately we returned the ball in contact too much. Not handling errors, not passing errors ,just in the bang and the bash of contact
“If you do that you seed opportunities for Munster to get on the front foot and they did more than us.
“I felt if we’d held onto the ball we were threatening enough to be able to cause them problems.
“The classic example was in the first half when we were going through the middle of them but immediately, as we are going to ground, we lost the ball and you just can’t do that at this level.
“It was a great contest though, Thomond Park is pretty intense and for large parts of that game we were physically excellent.
“We needed to be because it was Munster in Munster.
“I was proud of our physicality and I was proud of our set-piece and I thought it went well against a really excellent scrum and maul.
“We’ll take bits and pieces from that but we’re really disappointed with the loss.”
Ulster lost two crucial line-outs in quick succession at the start of the second half but overall won 14 out of 16 on their own throw.
“When you come to play Munster and you have Peter O’Mahony at the front of the line-out you have to be very clever how you play around that,” said McFarland.
“For the vast majority of that game I though Roddy Grant did a really good job with Sam Carter, Alan and Kieran in devising a plan.
“We had just lost the plot a little bit at that stage though having said that, they are pretty smart on the line-out defence. We reeled it back in and managed to get our thinking right and got it back in order after that.”
Ulster start their quest for European glory against Bath at the Rec on Saturday.
Bath toppled Premiership leaders Northampton Saints at the weekend and McFarland knows Ulster can’t afford any glitches at the scrum on line-out.
“We go from one European fortress to another,” he said.
“Bath, for a long time, have prided themselves on their set piece. Any side that plays in the Premiership has to be good at the set piece.
“We’ll go away, look at it and we’ll probably have to step up a gear going into Europe.”