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Error count was too high but Ulster are starting to trend in right direction, believes head coach McFarland


Ulster lost star full-back Jacob Stockdale to a second half injury (INPHO/James Crombie)

Ulster lost star full-back Jacob Stockdale to a second half injury (INPHO/James Crombie)

©INPHO/James Crombie

Ulster lost star full-back Jacob Stockdale to a second half injury (INPHO/James Crombie)

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland bemoaned his side's error count against Leinster on Saturday night but did feel his side looked more like themselves in the defeat.

Ulster made it back-to-back defeats since lockdown in losing 28-10 to their interprovincial rivals - who completed an unbeaten regular Guinness PRO14 season by winning all 15 games - ahead of next week's semi-final against Edinburgh.

The province only crossed for one try, through hooker Rob Herring, and were plagued by mistakes throughout, conceding 10 turnovers across the 80 minutes and generally being unable to hold onto the ball.

Ross Molony turned over a five-metre line-out in the first half when McFarland's side were still scoreless, handling errors were rife across both forwards and backs and some general decision-making in the red zone cost Ulster some clear scoring opportunities.

That being said, there was more life to Ulster than they showed in last week's defeat to Connacht, including some flowing moves that mixed forwards and backs, and with more clinical finishing they could have easily scored more than just the once.

In all, it left McFarland relatively satisfied in what his players put on the pitch, although he was still underwhelmed by the overall product heading into next Saturday's last-four tie at Murrayfield.

"We certainly notched it up and looked a lot more like ourselves in that. I was, in the context of losing, very happy with that," said the Englishman.

"(Intensity) is a fundamental part of the game, and certainly a fundamental part of our game, and without it you can't do anything.

"I think this week we had another issue was we couldn't get out of our own way in terms of making simple errors and giving away silly penalties and couldn't get any rhythm in the game. When we did get rhythm in the game, we looked good, but you can't sustain pressure on a team like Leinster if you keep making mistakes like that."

With Edinburgh likely to afford Ulster little margin for error in the Scottish capital next week, chances are the province will have to find a more cutting edge if they wish to end their six-year long final drought.

That isn't something that's lost on McFarland, who knows they will have to sharpen up their execution in the coming week in order to reach the showpiece - likely back at the Aviva Stadium - but he also confessed they're happy they even have a game to look forward to.

"Although we made less errors in the second half, we did make a couple of big ones - including backfield errors that we made, they cost us a try in the first half and one in the second half," continued the head coach on Saturday's loss.

"We also turned the ball over when we had attacking chances early on in that second half. We did a lot of good work but we're not where we need to be at at the moment.

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"But we have a semi-final, we're one of four teams with a semi-final to play. We're counting ourselves happy we do have another game to play next week."

Ulster lost star full-back Jacob Stockdale on the hour mark as he hobbled off in some pain, and then they also saw openside flanker Jordi Murphy come off in considerable discomfort shortly after too.

"(Jacob) took a couple of bangs on his lower leg, around his shin. My understanding is it isn't a strain or anything, it's a couple of nasty bangs he got in one place or another. I'm hopeful he'll be alright," insisted McFarland.

"I haven't heard on Jordi yet."

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