Ulster coach Dan McFarland still smarts about last loss to Connacht

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland
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Connacht won in Belfast last season for the first time in 60 years and followed that up by beating Ulster in Galway to complete a first ever league double over the Northern Province, however Ulster gained revenged with a playoff win.

For Ulster coach Dan McFarland who spent six years as a player at the Sportsground and nine as an assistant coach the 22-15 defeat in Belfast was hard to take.

“That was very disappointing last year, I remember the game vividly,” he said.

“We had a few problems in the set-piece early on in that game and they got a try which included an illegal blocking line, then we obviously got the yellow card and red card, played with 13 men and 14 all of the second half.

“It made it a very difficult game we ended up losing so it was really disappointing.”

The sides met again in the play-offs at the of the season back in Belfast, with Ulster avenging that earlier season loss.

McFarland said:“We played a lot better in the play-off game but it still hurt losing here earlier in the season.

“They came here and were physical with us and very competitive, made a good game of it and it was pretty tight at the end.

“It’ll be a tight game again and they’ll be pretty disappointed that they lost to Munster last week.

“They have got three, four tough games coming up, us away, Leinster away then Montpellier away and followed by Toulouse at home.

“They have four tough games coming up so it’ll be really important to them to play well against us.”

McFarland admits that losing to a side which you have had a connection with, whenever it was, does hurt.

He said: “There is definitely that hurt when you play against a team you’ve been at before, you don’t want to lose to them.​

“You don’t want to lose to anybody but it seems just a fraction more hurtful when it’s them, more so.

“It’s an interprovincial game at home in front of your fans. It’s painful for the lads to lose those games and I think we all feel that and I don’t want it to happen again.​”

McFarland wants a free flowing game but not as free as the one at the RDS against Leinster last Friday which broke a few records.

McFarland said: “It was the most points scored in a PRO14 game; the most tries scored in a PRO14 game and the most points scored by a losing team in a PRO14 game.

“So we’re sort of patting ourselves on the back for one statistic and punching ourselves in the face for the other one.​

“One of their coaches described it as a bit of Super Rugby and he wasn’t being complementary about that, it was an interesting game.​”

McFarland knows if Ulster don’t get their basics right Andy Friend’s side could punish them like last year.

“We start with the foundations of what we do which is obviously hard work with the ball and physicality in what we do.

“I’d like to see us be able to move the ball, when we do we look really good, in order to do that, we have got to create fast ball.

“They compete really hard at the breakdown, so making sure, one we have a game that’s legal in that area and also that we do our job in clearing them out.

“I think it’s really important we create tempo in our game and if we can do that, we know we are threatening, we can score a lot of tries and then equally, we are going to have to match their set-piece, they have a really strong set-piece, so it will be important that we match them there.”