McFarland glad to see Ulster round off season on a winning note with Rainbow Cup win over Edinburgh
PRO 14 Rainbow Cup: Edinburgh 31 Ulster 34
ULSTER head coach Dan McFarland hailed his side's dedication to finishing the season on a winning note despite nothing riding on their game against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield.
Ian Madigan's penalty with the last kick of the game sealed a dramatic 34-31 bonus point victory for the province as they ended their campaign by ensuring they weren't kept winless throughout the entire Rainbow Cup.
Ulster had led by 19 points as late as the 68th minute, but they picked up two yellow cards and Edinburgh scored three unanswered tries in 11 minutes to tie the scores at the death.
But, just like in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final back in September, up stepped Madigan with the final kick of the evening to seal the win with a long-range penalty to ensure Ulster head off on their summer holidays in a positive mood.
"It was great to see two teams playing in a game that meant nothing for either team going at it so ferociously. Young guys really putting their bodies on the line for their team-mates and I was really proud of the players for doing that," praised McFarland.
"Edinburgh posed a really big threat and they came at us in the second half - we talked about it at half-time, we knew we were going to come under the pump and they would have a purple patch and we'd have to weather that.
"Going down to two yellow cards was tough but we managed to come back and win the game, so I'm really proud of the lads."
Ulster had started the game terribly as Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn both crossed for tries inside the opening eight minutes, but the visitors slowly wrestled back control as James Hume crossed and then Iain Henderson went over in between Hamish Watson and WP Nel seeing yellow.
Stuart McCloskey went over for a fine try while the Scots were down to 13 men and then, once Watson and Nel returned, Adam McBurney - who will join Edinburgh in the summer - went over for Ulster's fourth try just before the break.
A further score five minutes after the restart from Rob Lyttle looked to have made the result safe, but Ulster ran into discipline problems of their own and Michael Lowry saw a controversial yellow for kicking the ball while offside before Nick Timoney joined him in the bin for a no-arms tackle.
With the two extra men, Edinburgh struck back twice to make it a one-score game, Pierre Schoeman and Cameron Hutchison diving over before Lowry and Timoney returned to the field.
There was a fair share of controversy over Eroni Sau's levelling try with two minutes left, the score confirmed by referee Ben Whitehouse despite replays showing Harri Morris' shoulder connected with Lowry's head in an earlier tackle.
But that decision wasn't to factor into the result as, with the clock in the red, Mesu Kunavula tackled Lyttle high to concede the penalty which Madigan calmly slotted to ensure Ulster wouldn't end the Rainbow Cup without a win.
McFarland, a critic of the tournament, did concede: "A lot of guys played a lot of rugby in that (Rainbow Cup) period and some guys put their hands up and took their chance, so that was a bonus from it."