Sport

Dan McFarland laments second-half performance in Ulster loss to Glasgow

Ulster coach Dan McFarland
Ulster coach Dan McFarland Ulster coach Dan McFarland

COACH Dan McFarland was disappointed with Ulster’s second-half display at Scotstoun on Saturday night as they failed to build on a promising first-half performance.

Glasgow made it five wins from six to go top of the United Rugby Championship table after recovering from a 14-0 deficit to win 33-20 and inflict a second defeat of the season on McFarland’s men.

"A lot of what we did in the first-half was excellent," the Ulster boss said.

"Particularly around our defence, but for some reason we fell on the wrong side of the referee and we couldn't work it out.

"We put ourselves under a lot of pressure after we scored those two tries, we didn't finish sets.

"In the second-half, we didn't get a grip of the physicality of the game and when we had our chances, we didn't finish sets."

Ulster dominated the opening exchanges and took a sixth-minute lead from a lineout after sending a penalty to touch on the left. The initial drive on the line was held up, but a second effort saw hooker Tom Stewart peel off the right-hand side and force his way over.

The visitors soon doubled their lead, again off the back of a penalty to touch, with

John Cooney finishing from close range after his pack had rumbled close. The scrum-half added his second conversion to make it 14-0.

Nathan Doak, a late addition to the Ulster bench, came on midway through the first-half for a head injury assessment to Billy Burns, which the starting 10 went on to fail.

The Warriors had barely got out of their own half up to that point, but slowly increased the pressure and eventually opened their account.

They sent a penalty to touch around 15 metres out, and after play came back infield, scrum-half Sean Kennedy celebrated his first home start for more than a decade by finishing off from close range. Tom Jordan converted the first of his four successful kicks.

Glasgow pressed hard for a second try as half-time approached, and they eventually got it in injury-time.

A lineout was once more the launchpad, and hooker George Turner finished off at the back of the maul before Jordan’s conversion made it 14-14 at the break.

World Cup winner Steven Kitshoff came on for his Ulster debut 10 minutes into the second-half, but before the prop could get involved the Warriors took the lead when Josh McKay found Kyle Rowe in just enough space for him to score in the left corner.

Jordan’s conversion attempt went wide as the visitors’ Kieran Treadwell was sent to the sin bin for an offence in the build-up.

A Cooney penalty narrowed the gap to two points, but just before the hour mark Johnny Matthews came off the bench and got on the end of a well-worked passing move to secure the bonus-point score for the home side.

Jordan’s conversion made it a nine-point lead, and although a Doak penalty soon cut it to six with quarter of an hour to play, Matthews then got his second try after sustained pressure and Jordan added the extras.

Speaking after the game, McFarland conceded that the loss of Jake Flannery in the warm-up and the forced replacement of Burns hindered his injury-hit side further.

"You lose two 10s in the first 10 minutes of the game and it is obviously going to make it very difficult," the Ulster coach added.

"Nathan didn't practice at 10 all week, so it is definitely disruptive, but I thought we put ourselves in a good position in that game.

"The amount of penalties we seemed to give away at the breakdown, that swung the momentum. They got their mojo going and they're a good team.

"From our attack side of things we have to be able to hold onto the ball and be able to finish sets better, that was a big thing."