Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Brian McLaughlin hits out at 'unacceptable' display

It was a night to forget for Ulster and the aftermath brought even less comfort as the side were forced to digest their third successive league defeat and first reverse at home in nine outings in all competitions stretching back to Leinster's win in Belfast last Christmas.

And that wasn't all as this was the first time Ulster had fallen to Italian opposition leaving then with a fairly disappointing return of three straight wins and three straight losses from the season's first segment of six games.

There will be much to ponder now as the squad takes a break with their next game another worrying looking trip to Wales to meet the Scarlets on October 29.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin couldn't hide his frustration with what he had witnessed.

"We're exceptionally disappointed," he said afterwards.

"We were looking forward to getting back here and then to turn up and play like that in front of our home fans; we all agree that it wasn't acceptable from our point of view.

"We were in the exact same position last year," McLaughlin added, "and we've got three weeks now to get it right and prepare for the Scarlets and prepare for Europe.

"And that's the way it will be, a lot of hard work needs to be done."

No one was arguing with that assessment and one area that seems to need rather urgent attention are the scrums where a raft of penalties were concededalong with the accompanying sin-binning of Declan Fitzpatrick and a penalty try.

"When you look at the game, there were times when our set-scrum was under pressure," the Ulster coach admitted, though he was clearly felt a certain amount of frustration at the way Italian referee Stefano Penne handled the set-pieces.

"There seems to be a thing in the referee's book now that allows the opposition to stand up and you're not allowed to scrummage square anymore and the side that pop up and if you follow up after them you get penalised.

"Yes, we have to work on our set-scrums, there's no doubt about that but I think it also needs to be refereed fair and square and straight down the middle," McLaughlin said.

"Having said that under no circumstances is the referee at fault and we talked long and hard about our discipline; at the minute our discipline is a little off the mark but it's now a matter of us over the next few weeks that we eradicate the errors that we're making in the opposition '22'."

On the injury front, Jared Payne was helped off in the first half with an ankle or Achilles injury while Ian Whitten shipped a shoulder injury which saw him replaced by Paddy Jackson.

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