Belfast Telegraph

McLaughlin left haunted again by more penalty pain

By Niall Crozier

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin was not mincing his words following last night’s 22-9 RaboDirect Pro12 defeat by Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

“You can’t come to a place like this, play as we did and expect to get a result. This a very hard competition and you have to play a lot better than we did if you’re going to win matches,” he said.

For the second time in six days McLaughlin was critical of his team for their concession of penalties, although against Ospreys last Sunday he felt his players were perhaps the victims of some over-zealous and not always consistent refereeing.

He had no such qualification this time, however, laying responsibility squarely on the doorstep of his players.

“You can’t gift the opposition the sort of soft penalties we did,” he said. “In the first half in particular we gave away far too many.

“Then, when we did get opportunities, we didn’t take them and we let them out again far too easily. We’re 14 players down tonight,” he said, momentarily highlighting the loss of nine big names to the World Cup and the absence of others through injury.

“But basically it boils down to the fact that when you come to somewhere like this you have to match them. Dragons, like ourselves, are very good at home. They’re a proud team and they play with tremendous passion, especially here at Rodney Parade.

“We didn’t do that. We gave them soft points from penalties for really basic errors. When we were in their half, we made basic errors there, too, so they were able to clear their lines.”

McLaughlin refused to dwell on Nevin Spence’s first-half sin-binning during which Ulster conceded the only try of the match. That was converted by Jason Tovey who also landed a penalty during the Ulster centre’s enforced absence.

“It was just one of those things,” he added. “The tackle was high so we have no complaints about that decision. You can’t argue with it. And full credit to Dragons — they made it count when we were down to 14.”

As ever, he found positives to encourage him. “Our line-out again was strong, though in fairness to them (Dragons) they did well around the line-out with their maul,” he stressed.

“Our set scrum was much better, too. Jerry (Cronin) and Declan (Fitzpatrick) did well in the first half and Adam (Macklin) did very well in the second. So that’s a big plus.

“We were without Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave and Jared Payne who you’d love to have playing on a night where you’re maybe looking for one or two experienced guys to stand up.”

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