Despite being satisfied with Ulster’s bonus-point victory over Scarlets, Dan McFarland felt there were a number of areas that didn’t meet his expectations and that needed to be improved on.
“Anybody that measures things in outcomes, the result was excellent. We got a bonus-point win against the Scarlets who I think conceded one of the lowest try counts in the league this year. We talked about it this week that they’re a gritty team who have played a lot of tight games this season. We always knew they were going to be tough. In terms of the result, a bonus-point win is excellent. In terms of our performance, it’s been the worst performance we’ve had this year.
“It was a bit of a curate’s egg because some of our work close to their line was top-class. Our forwards ran hard and some of our mauling was good. We got tries off the back of our forwards running. Our defence of Scarlets’ driving maul when we were down to 14 men was top-class at the start. When you flip it around, the smarts in the way we played and controlled the game weren’t great. We conceded a maul try, which is just not good enough; that’s something we’ll have to work at.”
Ulster were down to 14 for a quarter of the game with two yellow cards, which made it tough for the province to deal with.
“The lads did really well and defended really hard during our first yellow card. It’s tough to defend on your own 5-metre line. During the second yellow card, we got our roles wrong and didn’t move quick enough for that Scarlets’ try. The score off the other scrum from a cross-field kick was just too easy. That’s not good enough. Don’t get me wrong, Scarlets executed their plays really well. It is really difficult to defend those, but our standards are such that we’d expect to defend them.”
Ulster conceded 13 penalties, which McFarland felt allowed Scarlets into the game and made life difficult for the Ulster men.
“[Our poor discipline] fed their energy and they got into positions where they could score. We just brought pressure on ourselves and they didn’t allow us to bring pressure at the end of the field where we were quite successful in their 22.”
There were positives to take from the game, in particular the individual performances of some of Ulster’s young players, and the Head Coach was full of praise.
“Some of the individual performances were excellent. Mikey Lowry was superb again at full-back. Eric O’Sullivan was absolutely outstanding; credit to him.
“Eric gets through more work than the vast majority of looseheads that I know of. It’s not just work in terms of tackles and carries; it’s the work-rate in the stuff you expect back-rowers to be good at – movement in the defensive line, kick-chase, and getting to breakdowns where players are isolated.
“Last week against Zebre, we took a quick penalty with a cross-field kick to Gilly. He was all on his own on the right-hand side and Eric and Luke Marshall had to run 50 metres to get there. He wants to do it; he just sprints. He’s got a scrum and maul as well! Eric is a great person and he’s so desperate to do well. How good was his carrying? This week, we saw some hard yard carries which I was really impressed with.”
Up next for unbeaten Ulster is a PRO14 Round 8 trip to BT Murrayfield to face Edinburgh next Monday evening (kick-off 8.15pm).