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Dan McFarland slams 'terrible decision' from referee and Ulster's performance after late Rainbow Cup defeat to Connacht


Connacht’s Peter Sullivan celebrates scoring a late try to win the game (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Connacht’s Peter Sullivan celebrates scoring a late try to win the game (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Connacht’s Peter Sullivan celebrates scoring a late try to win the game (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

After seeing his side lose the Rainbow Cup opener to Connacht thanks to the use of a new captain's challenge, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland deadpanned that he'd believed the "law variations were going to be a good idea but it turns out they're terrible."

While McFarland's comments were decidedly tongue in cheek, the northern province boss was clearly in less than jovial mood after his side slipped to a dramatic 26-24 loss against his old employers.

The power afforded Eoghan Masterson to call for referee Andrew Brace to check on the legality of Mike Lowry's tackle release on Kieran Marmion when the clock was red, one of three new laws introduced to this competition, would prove telling when, instead of the full-time whistle, the western province would ultimately begin a passage of play that ended with Peter Sullivan diving over in the corner to seal their second win in Belfast in three seasons.

Yet, having already come back from the surrendering of a 10-point lead in a game where their performance never merited such an advantage, McFarland was left bristling over how his side hadn't made the win safe following Dave Shanahan's 73rd minute score had nudged them 24-21 ahead.

"A couple of errors from us," he said of how the game had slipped away.

"We had the game in the bag and there was a turnover from a driving maul and it was a terrible decision from the referee

"The maul had broken up and it was a one on one tackle and he gave it as a maul turnover. That's maul refereeing 101.

"Then obviously there's a couple of errors for us and then they break out."

Had Ulster held on, Connacht would likely have felt considerably hard done by, with McFarland highlighting the opposition's increased physicality as the reason for their long periods of superiority to begin and end the contest.

"(The performance was) Not very good," he said.

"When we played them up in Galway, we absolutely duffed them in the collisions and they came here and knew they had to take us on there and got the better of us in the collisions.

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"They came flying off the line, they were offside a lot.

"On the occasions when we kept the passes shorter we cut them open and we got better at that in the second half and caused them some trouble, and got our maul going, our scrum was strong, but it was probably our lacklustre collisions that got us in a bit of trouble when we shouldn't have been."

With that defeat, Ulster's hopes of a Rainbow Cup final are already slim but their focus will instead centre upon improving in time for next Friday's key Challenge Cup semi final away to Leicester Tigers.

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