Belfast Telegraph

That performance won't be good enough twice in a row, claims Ulster head coach Dan McFarland

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland pictured before their game against Harlequins at Kingspan Stadium (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland pictured before their game against Harlequins at Kingspan Stadium (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland believes his team don't have a chance at taking a win from the Twickenham Stoop next week if they play like they did on Saturday afternoon.

Rugby round up Newsletter

Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

McFarland's men needed a last-gasp penalty from John Cooney to edge their Heineken Champions Cup tie with Harlequins, winning 25-24 at Kingspan Stadium to maintain their unbeaten record in Europe.

However, it could have been so different for Ulster as they were only minutes away from suffering a costly home loss that would have significantly hindered their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.

Elia Elia had scored a quickfire brace for Quins with 20 minutes to go, but Ulster battled back through an Adam McBurney try and Cooney's stunning long-range penalty.

The win took Ulster back to the top of Pool Three in the Champions Cup and on track for a place in the last-eight of Europe, even if it wasn't wholly convincing for the most part in Belfast.

The two sides do it all again at The Stoop in London on Friday night in the second game of their back-to-backs but McFarland believes that kind of display won't get it done next week.

"We've got Harlequins away and we've got Clermont away so if we play like we played tonight over at The Stoop we haven't got a chance," insists the Ulster head coach.

"I really believe that. We have to be a whole heap better than that to even countenance a win."

As for the win itself, while the performance wasn't what McFarland would have been hoping for, the coach was willing to take the positives as his side continued their momentum.

That's now eight wins from their opening ten games for Ulster this season, and they have three wins from three in Europe, and while the performances aren't up to scratch yet, they've found an uncanny knack for grinding out wins.

"We had a few situations like that last year where we had to fight at the end but it was only this morning I was walking down the street and I thought to myself that we hadn't had a game like that this year, (one) that had really come down to the wire and we had to pull something out of the bag," laughed the Englishman.

"I almost thought to myself 'I wonder do we still have it in us?' That's demonstrated that we still do.

"I wasn't thinking we're definitely going to win this game but I was thinking to myself that we definitely have the capability to win this game based on all the evidence we'd had.

"We'd had plenty of chances to win that game prior to that that we hadn't taken. That was down to our own non-execution of edge attacks, non-execution of two-on-ones to finish tries, mixed in with great play from them.

"I thought they came in with real physicality. They put us under pressure. They've got some really good players that caused us trouble. Perhaps we didn't expect that and that's probably on me."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph