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We're all to blame for defeat: Pienaar

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar has said it is the team, not Paddy Jackson, who must shoulder the blame for Saturday's 9-7 defeat to inter-provincial rivals Munster.

Despite dominating for much of the first-half, Les Kiss's side could manage only a solitary try through Louis Ludik with two penalty misses from Jackson after the turn seeing the visitors escape with a narrow victory that was Ulster's first reverse at home in the Pro12 since May of 2014.

A fine goal-kicker himself, Pienaar had been substituted by the time Jackson had a second opportunity off the tee in the 78th minute and sympathised with the situation in which the number ten found himself.

"Paddy's been striking the ball really well so it's not his fault at all," said the Springbok. "He's been playing outstanding rugby and some days you'll get those and other times you won't."

Pienaar bemoaned Ulster's lack of accuracy in the first-half while also feeling that the opposing back-row did just enough to slow his side's possession.

"We had a lot set-pieces in the first half, we had a lot of opportunities but probably lost the ball too many times in attacking areas. I also felt we could have had more than seven points after that first half.

"We know Munster are a team that always plays 80 minutes and doesn't back off. That's exactly what they did and they managed to scrap a good win for them.

"We're a team that like to play with tempo and they slowed the breakdown very well, which was a bit frustrating for us.

"We didn't look after the breakdown well enough, they also got a lot of turnovers from that, which gave them good field position."

Ulster's focus now turns to a crucial triple-header in Europe with two games against Oyonnax to be negotiated either side of a trip to Saracens. After winning each of their four games in December, and missing out on what would have been a first five-game winning streak since the early months of 2014, Pienaar admits that the loss of momentum ahead of the Champions Cup return is frustrating.

"It's really disappointing," he said. "We've put in a lot of hard work over the last month and got some good results and good rewards. To then lose on our own patch hurts."

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