Brian McLaughlin admitted to being “a little bit disappointed but delighted to be going home with at least something” after watching his Ulster side slog it out to finish with a 15-15 draw against Connacht in Galway.
And he stressed that it is very much a case of a work in progress having seen the hosts come back to level the scores four times.
The intensity of the battle came as no surprise to him. Throughout the week in the countdown to Saturday night he had said it would be “very, very tough and physical”.
He was right.
But although disappointed not to have won, he saw a huge positive in the result even though it means still-unbeaten Ulster — a distinction they share with leaders Munster — have dropped from second to fourth spot in the Magners League table. “We sat down at the start of the season and said that when we go away from home we want to try and get something from every game,” the Ulster coach said.
“And I suppose in the end a draw is a fair result. So I’m pleased to be going home with two (points), but maybe disappointed that it’s not four. The positive from our point of view was that we kept getting our noses in front.
The negative was that we then gave away a penalty, nearly immediately, to let them back in.”
Referring to the loss of a critical scrum late on when Ulster had worked to create a good attacking situation, he said: “A great team would have polished the game off with that scrum up at the top end.
“But we just aren’t quite there at the minute. We still have a few things to work on in and around that area. We’ve got to be more ruthless, more clinical and take our opportunities. We did have opportunities to kill the game off and get ahead, but we gave away a penalty or we lost a line-out or a scrum and that put us under a bit of pressure.”
And his assessment of Paddy Wallace’s performance at stand-off, at the behest of Irish coach Declan Kidney who watched from the match from the stand, was: “I think he did okay. Obviously he was a bit rusty in there — you saw that with his line kicking in the first half when a couple of his penalties didn’t make it (touch).
“But he’s very good in there. His organisational skills are good.
“But then when you put him to 12 you get a little bit of extra space and he shows exactly what he can do. But Declan wants us to play him there a few times and I’m very happy to do that.”