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London Irish still playing on their minds

By Gavin Mairs

Ulster coach Mark McCall believed too many errors during the second half cost his side the chance of victory as Leinster blew the Magners League title race wide open with 20-12 victory in the last ever game at Lansdowne Road yesterday.

Mark McCall's side led the contest 12-5 going into the second half but tries by Owen Finegan and Jamie Heaslip and a Jonathan Sexton penalty took the game away from the champions to cut their lead at the top of the table to just three points.

"I think a seven-point lead playing into those conditions wasn't enough, " said McCall.

"The game was in the balance for a long time but once they got their noses in front it became very difficult to play catch up into the wind.

"We made very poor turn-overs around the half-way line in the second half which cost us. We wanted to play rugby and we didn't get our hands on the ball. In the first 10 minutes of the second half we tried to play a little bit too much rugby in and around 10-metre line and once Paddy (Wallace) started putting the ball in the air we started causing their back three a lot of problems.

"It was very difficult playing into that wind and they were very sensible. When they turned us over they got the ball into our 22 and hurt us.

"There were critical things that happened in that second half and probably if we had our time again, we could have maybe kicked the penalty to the corner instead of Paddy going for goal."

McCall believes his side are still suffering from a mental hangover following the Heineken Cup defeat to London Irish in Reading last month and need to dig deep now in their bid to become the first ever side to retain the Magners League title.

"Our next game is very important because we have got another two away games coming up," he added. We go to Glasgow and then the Ospreys so it is going to be a difficult month.

"It has been a difficult and hard month for us. There is no doubt in my mind that the result and the performance at London Irish took the wind out of our sails. We haven't played particularly well since that albeit that we have dragged out a couple of wins since then which is all credit to the players

"We have lost a little bit of self-belief as a result of that performance. Not so much the performance but perhaps the realisation that our European campaign is over.

"The players have done brilliantly to win the last couple of games while not playing that well and today they gave it everything they had but we are certainly playing as well as we can at the moment."

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