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Ulster coach demands improvement for Harlequins return while province waits on Marcell Coetzee injury update

 

Dan McFarland
Dan McFarland
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has warned that his side's Heineken Cup campaign will be derailed with any repeat of Saturday's performance against Harlequins.

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The province remained top of Pool Three after John Cooney kicked a last-gasp penalty in the 25-24 win but were only minutes away from seeing what is now a 17-game unbeaten run at Kingspan Stadium go up in smoke.

They'll face Harlequins again on Friday night, this time away from home, while they still have to visit Clermont's Stade Marcel Michelin and host Bath next month.

"We've got Harlequins away and we've got Clermont away still to come so if we play like we played here over at The Stoop we haven't got a chance," McFarland fumed. "I really believe that. We have to be a whole heap better than that to even countenance a win."

McFarland shouldered some of the blame for what he said was a more dangerous Harlequins side than the 11-point favourites perhaps expected.

"Going into next week, we have to reassess where we're at and make sure we do the fundamentals of the game right," he added.

"I thought Harlequins came in with real physicality. They put us under pressure.

"They've got some really good players that caused us trouble. Perhaps we didn't expect that and that's probably on me."

Having enjoyed a fortunate run of injury luck to start the season, the province's depth is now being tested.

Summer signings Jack McGrath and Sam Carter, the latter still sporting a sling on Saturday, have been absent since the win over Bath last month. Carter will remain on the sidelines until the Six Nations while Robert Baloucoune injured a knee against Scarlets two weeks ago and was forced to miss the Harlequins game.

He was absent from a back three already without the suspended Will Addison. Winger Baloucoune joins fellow youngsters Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle and James Hume in the treatment room, the former having suffered a setback when returning to training last week.

The big blow to come during Saturday's game was the loss of star back-rower Marcell Coetzee an hour into the contest with more expected to be known today on what looked like an ankle issue.

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