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‘It’s a terrific achievement to win in Clermont at any stage’: Dan McFarland proud as Ulster claim historic win in France


Ulster's Tom O’Toole celebrates their win over Clermont (INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Ulster's Tom O’Toole celebrates their win over Clermont (INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Ulster's Tom O’Toole celebrates their win over Clermont (INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland spoke of his pride after his side secured a famous win away to Clermont in their Champions Cup opener.

The province had never before won at the venue - and hadn't won in France for over five years - but claimed a huge scalp thanks to tries from Stuart McCloskey and Nick Timoney as well as 19 points from the boot of man of the match John Cooney.

While some may point to the Covid disruption in the Clermont ranks this week, and to the notion that this is not a vintage version of the three-time beaten finalists now led by former Ulster coach Jono Gibbes, McFarland's side dealt with plenty of adversity of their own to begin with a win in Europe.

They ended the game with just one recognised back-three player on the field after both Robert Balocoune and Mike Lowry departed through injury, while they pitched up in the Auvergne already without Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison and Marty Moore amongst others.

"It's a terrific achievement to come and win in Clermont at any stage for any team," said McFarland who has now masterminded wins in two of European rugby's toughest places to come in the space of three games having beaten Leinster in Dublin last month.

"They're a great team. They're probably not playing their best rugby at the moment but they still have the same players who are able to do amazing stuff. They demonstrated that in the game. I thought we played really well for most of the game in the way that we controlled it.

"The bottom line is we have a lot of lads out there who have been banging on the door of the starting team without being considered to be our starters.

"They've been performing really well and they were magnificent today.

"In the game itself, there was a litany of things that were difficult today...Mikey Lowry going off, Rob Baloucoune going off.

"I'm so proud of the lads and what they've done. That's a victory that we should be proud of."

Despite Ulster's strong start to the game that saw them lead from minute one to minute 62, they had to come from behind in the last quarter after their hosts had fought back from 16-0 down to lead 20-19. On a day when many would have viewed a losing bonus as an acceptable return, McFarland was especially pleased by the fortitude his side displayed to win the game late.

"The bottom line is, the last time we came here we played really well and it slipped away from us just either side of half-time.

"Good teams are able to squeeze you in that period and Clermont did today.

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"We got a number of things wrong like our kicking game which wasn't as effective as it had been in the first-half.

"We allowed them to break out and brought pressure back onto ourselves but ultimately we were able to get back into it with some really good play and some huge individual plays as well."

If there was anything to put a dampener on Ulster's win with just a six-day turnaround to the visit from Northampton on Friday night, it was the shoulder injury that forced Baloucoune off in the first-half.

"He's not going to be playing next week, (but) I don't know how serious it is," revealed McFarland.

Clermont lock Jacobus van Tonder was sent to the sin bin for the incident which forced Ulster into an early reshuffle that saw centre Stewart Moore deployed on the wing.

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