McFarland woe as Connacht inflict a first twin defeat
Ulster brought the curtain down on 2018 in forgettable fashion last night as losing 21-12 to Connacht, in Galway, also allowed the westerners to achieve a first seasonal double in the professional era over their provincial rivals.
Tries from Angus Kernohan and Jordi Murphy were not enough to prevent Connacht from backing up October's historic victory in the Kingspan - their first win in Belfast for 58 years - and brought to an end Ulster's four-game winning run which began at the start of the month.
The victory also meant that Connacht have triumphed in their last three encounters with Ulster, having won in last December's game in Galway, the first time this has happened since the mid-1950s.
It was a disappointing return for Dan McFarland to the province where he both played and coached and though the Ulster head coach praised his players for the way they fought back after trailing 14-0, he was still clearly frustrated by their error-strewn performance.
McFarland, whose side coughed up three tries, said: “We wanted to come here and win and we expected to come here and win and on the day they were better than us.
“I think we created plenty of opportunities but when you start the game by turning the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes and go 14-0 down you’re giving yourself a hill to climb.
“From then on we scored 12 points and they got seven, we could have had more.”
McFarland also felt that Caolin Blade’s try at the start of the second half should not have been allowed as Jack Carty appeared offside earlier in the move.
Though referee Marius Mitrea consulted TMO Olly Hodges, there appeared to be no definitive angle to make the call and the try, which was converted, stood.
“Their try at the beginning of the second half I felt was offside,” McFarland maintained. “It was difficult for the TMO to make a decision on that because of the angle, but we lost out on two six-inch offside tries in Kingspan (in October) so that’s disappointing.”
But McFarland praised how his team battled their way back after their poor opening.
“As a coaching group we said to them at half-time, and at the end, that we were really proud of how we fought our way back into it,” he added. “We could easily have been knocked over. In Munster we were knocked over and could never get back on our feet, here we clearly got back to our feet and dominated large parts of that game.
“We found weapons which could cause them trouble, but as the game went on there were a few handling errors, we found edges against them but the ball didn’t go to hand.”