Ulster rally in second half to see off Cardiff Blues

Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates after the game.
Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates after the game.
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Ulster coach Dan McFarland revealed the half time team talk inspired Ulster to a victory over Cardiff at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster went into the break trailing 10-12 but two John Cooney second half penalties and a strong defensive display which shut the Blues out in the second 40 minutes got McFarland’s side over the line.

“I think it was a first half in which we struggled to combat their line speed and their physicality in the tackle, in and around our rucks, they were causing us problems there,” said McFarland.

“Fair play to them they had really good line-speed and you can see the way that they stacked their team that that was what they wanted to do.

“The ball was very greasy, we like to move the ball around but it becomes more difficult in the conditions but we had to do better than in the first half; that meant winning collisions, not just the up and down but also using footwork and in the speed of our ball.

“The lads improved that in the second-half, we held onto the ball better... in the first-half they found edges on us but Jared did a really good job at half-time making a couple of technical changes to ensure we had more width and we solved that problem in the second-half.

“As I say, in the second-half we came out and found a weapon with which we could hurt them, which was our maul.”

The win saw Ulster go level with second-placed Scarlets in Conference B in the Pro14.

“We all talk about the process and moving on but we love sport because we love wins, that’s why we play; win or lose there’s emotion to deal with but obviously, it’s better when you win.

“I think for us to win this week - we were disappointed with our performance last week in certain aspects and we wanted to come home and win at home - sharing wins here with the home support is very important to us. Our supporters want to see us win here.”

McFarland was satisfied with Ulster’s driving maul.

“As it was difficult to move the ball around, we needed a direct weapon, we were able to hold onto it better but the maul became that weapon. In addition to that, there were a couple of instances where we did try and play and caused them a bit of trouble from our own half.

“One example was when James (Hume) made his break but unfortunately, he didn’t hold onto the ball. We’ve got to improve in making sure that we love our possession and respect the ball.”

Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale returning to the white shirt after their exploits against the All Blacks made a huge contributions from the bench in the second half.

McFarland noted: “As the guys come back in it’s a question of building the cohesiveness; they have been away for a while playing in a slightly different system to what we play.

“They enjoy coming back and being with their provincial buddies. It always takes a couple of training sessions for them to get back into the way we do things.”