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McFarland left to rue missed first half chances again as Ulster's season ends at the hands of Toulouse


Dan McFarland

Dan McFarland

�INPHO/James Crombie

Dan McFarland

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was left to once again rue that his side didn't produce their best on the big stage.

Having suffered the heartbreak of PRO14 final defeat against Leinster eight days ago, his side were dumped out of the Champions Cup in comprehensive fashion, Toulouse winning the quarter-final at the Stade Ernest Wallon by a score of 36-8.

Playing two of the best side's in Europe in consecutive weeks is always likely to shine a forensic light upon a team's shortcomings and, while that certainly proved to be the case here, the coach was most disappointed by his side once again not hitting the heights they had prior to lockdown.

Winning just one of their five games since the restart, missed opportunities have haunted them through the run and did so again out in France, a failure to make the most of their chances at 8-3 down long forgotten by the full-time whistle.

"I think it's the same story again," said McFarland, who went into the game without Marcell Coetzee and ended with scrum-half John Cooney filling in on the wing. "We had opportunities in the first-half, one gilt edged.

"Their first try came when we had James Hume lying on the floor injured and defending against them was difficult enough with 15, with 14, we just couldn't do it.

"We missed an opportunity to go into the lead (at 8-3) but passed the ball into touch and then they scored.

"We were already under pressure there and then the second-half we made too many mistakes."

Even if in their best form, Ulster likely would have travelled to France as underdogs but the frustration for McFarland, is he'll now never know what might have been had they pitched up in better shape.

"Toulouse are a magnificent team and I think they showed that if you make errors, or give them half-chances, they're going to take them," he said. "That was evident today.

"But I'm looking at that game and I'm thinking if we're closer to the way we can play, that would have been a real contest. I'd have expected us to even be ahead at half-time.

"They'll be looking at themselves and saying they're not hitting their straps, not hitting their best rugby. Up front I thought our forwards did a really good job, I thought our scrum was magnificent. When you watch what they've been doing to sides like Clermont and La Rochelle, what they've been doing before the lockdown, they can steamroller you but our front-row did an amazing job.

"We did a lot of good work up front but we didn't have that all court game."

Ulster will now watch on when the semi-finals take place on Saturday before kicking off their 2020/21 PRO14 campaign just one week later.

Belfast Telegraph