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Ulster can win Champions Cup group after back-to-back Scarlets victories: McFarland

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has urged his side to go on and target winning their pool after another Champions Cup bonus-point win against Scarlets last night.

Ten points from 10 available against their PRO14 rivals in the back-to-backs were secured thanks to a 30-15 win and tries from Jacob Stockdale, John Cooney and two from Iain Henderson at Kingspan Stadium. The province have a real shot at not just a place in the last eight, via a best runners-up spot, but now catching European heavyweights Racing 92 at the top of the pool.

The French, who Ulster host in the second weekend in January, will meet Leicester on Sunday now only level on points with McFarland's resurgent side.

"If you go into the back to backs having won one and take both of them, then you put yourself in a good position," said the coach of his side's prospects of making the quarters for a first time since 2014.

"Racing are one of the best teams in Europe and both them and Leicester have a tremendous European pedigree. There's no right from where we are to go on and qualify, we have to go and earn it.

“For anybody who is an Ulster fan or a rugby fan, Racing coming here is going to be an exciting prospect. All I know is we’ve got to win two games. I’ll be watching (Racing v Leicester) with interest. We’ve got to win our games. We need to win the group first. That’s possible now and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.

“I’m really satisfied with the result, obviously five points and 10 points from two games against the Scarlets is a situation which any team would be pleased with due to the quality of opposition.

“In terms of the performance there was lots in that that we’d be very happy with.

“We were a little bit disappointed going in at half-time (Ulster led 10-3) in the fact that we hadn’t pushed the game on so there was an intensity in our defence which wasn’t quite at the level we wanted it to be.

“We’d also turned over a couple of balls and lost them in contact, we spoke about that at half-time and we spoke about not giving them access in the second half and I felt that third quarter albeit for the exceptional intercept try we did that.”

Stockdale, who has now scored in each of the first four rounds of the Champions Cup, was subbed off shortly after scoring his try but McFarland said there were no injury concerns over the 22-year-old star.

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