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McFarland delighted to see Ulster players take control in win over Leinster

United Rugby Championship, RDS, Dublin 27/11/2021 Leinster vs Ulster Ulster's James Hume celebrates scoring a try with teammates Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane
PAUL McINTYRE

United Rugby Championship: Leinster 10 Ulster 20

Tries from Greg Jones and James Hume helped seal a famous 10-point win for Ulster on Saturday night against Leinster at the RDS.

After losing heavily to Connacht in their last fixture a month ago, Ulster needed to bounce back to stay amongst the leading pack, and bounce back they did in the best possible fashion.

Describing the fixture as the ultimate test in rugby head coach Dan McFarland was full of praise for his side with not only their victory on the night, but also how they prepared during the week.

"Playing Leinster in Dublin is the ultimate test in our league, it's as simple as that. We knew what we had to do, and it's a huge ask, and to be fair to the lads and the preparation they put in during the week, I thought they did a magnificent job,” said a delighted McFarland afterwards.

The win was even more pleasing as news emerged after the game that coaches Jared Payne and Dan Soper were forced to isolate due to Covid-19 protocols and McFarland was keen to praise to efforts made by both players and coaches after being forced to adapt to the disruption during the week.

“We did have a couple of coaches missing for the week. One of the points I made during the week is that it's a testament to them as coaches and players in general that the work that they do on the field at the beginning of the week was seamlessly brought through at the end of the week.

“It was interesting that the group pulls together when there's little tough things that happen like that. They don't become major things,” said McFarland

“One of the big things you often hear is the players have to grasp what they are doing and take control. It is a fancy word that management use. It's called empowerment. I don't really like the word. I just think it is taking responsibility for what you have got to do.

“Every club works on that and the work the coaches did this week was magnificent in their preparation as it always is. It was interesting that the group pulls together when there are little, tough things that happen like that,” continued McFarland.

After starting the game like a team with a point to prove, Ulster only held a slender seven point lead at the break.

Despite holding Leinster scoreless in the first half, McFarland would've been forgiven for thinking that his side would leave the RDS with nothing after a near perfect first half showing.

"We've been in this situation a number of times where we've played a good first half, been up at half time and then that third quarter, wow that's always tough here.

"In times gone by the game has started to drift away from us in that third quarter as Leinster have got on top, but in this game it didn't. We were gritty, tough, we fought back, we found the mental resilience when they scored that try to be able to fight back,” added McFarland.

Following a successful John Cooney penalty on 48 minutes, Leinster came roaring back into the contest and a Robbie Henshaw try was converted by Ross Byrne just three minutes later, and when the former kicked a penalty to level the tie on 65 minutes, many observers felt that Leinster were on their way to another win.

However, an injection of youth lifted Ulster in the closing stages and following Nathan Doak's penalty on 67 minutes, player of the match Hume intercepted Tommy O'Brien's rash pass to run in the games defining score, with Doak's conversion sealing the ten point win in the final minutes.

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