Ulster’s bonus point securing try against Dragons lauded as “magnificent” by head coach Dan McFarland

Securing 14 points from a possible 15 in a mini-block of Guinness PRO14 fixtures during the Six Nations Championship period was just what Ulster needed to boost their play-off ambitions.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:47 am
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 9:50 am
Ulster celebrate a try against Dragons

A battling display in Newport’s Rodney Parade on Sunday afternoon - a ground where they traditionally struggle - saw Ulster dig in and pick up five match points against the Dragons - even when they had gone down to 13 men during the last 10 minutes.

It secured back-to-back bonus point wins for Ulster having won 54-7 the previous week at home against Zebre.

And having won at Ospreys at the start of the block, picking up nine points on the road coupled with that comfortable home win, Ulster can go into this enforced break period happy with their lot.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Importantly, Ulster returned to third place in the table and crucially reduced the gap on second placed Benetton to a point.

Scarlets moved up to fourth place - four points behind Ulster - after Edinburgh suffered a second defeat in a row, losing away to Benetton.

Next up for Ulster will be Southern Kings in Belfast on March 23.

That will be targeted as a five-point game ahead of what is a difficult run-in to the league programme - after of course the small matter of a European Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin against Leinster.

Ulster have away games to Glasgow and Edinburgh before entertaining Leinster in the final game of the regular league season on April 27.

Leinster have already secured their home semi-final in the PRO14 play-offs, a win against Cheetahs on Friday night left them now untouchable at the head of Conference B.

Ulster will be pushing hard for a home play-off and that means finishing second.

Those tricky games away to the Scottish sides, who are both in the European quarter-finals, will prove tough, especially Edinburgh who are now chasing a play-off spot having slipped from second to fifth over the last three weeks.

Ulster head coach, Dan McFarland, was not resting on his laurels.

“We have to keep winning,” he said when asked what he felt his side could achieve.

“If you look at our conference we have got three European quarter-finalists in it, it is does not get tougher than that.

“Scarlets are in there from last year semi-finals in Europe and we also have Benetton who are stacking points at the moment.

“There is no room to breath in there at the moment you have to keep winning,” he added.

As for the performance against Dragons, McFarland was happy to come away with a victory.

“The discipline was a little bit of a disappointment for us, something over the last number of weeks we have been really good at.

“We only gave four pens away last week and this week it was 10 on defence which is very unusual for us.

“It cost us two yellow cards, they were deserved yellow cards and we really had to dig in to make sure we stayed strong.”

Ulster went through 27 phases - when down to 13 men - to score the bonus point try.

“I thought it was magnificent,” lauded McFarland “That was one of the best tries we have scored this year.

“Those were very difficult conditions out there.

“We managed to hold on to the ball, we were really patient, 13 men on the field at the time, it was excellent,” added McFarland.