French giants just Tou good admits Ulster head coach Dan McFarland

James Hume
Ulster centre James Hume attempts to make a break during his side's defeat to Toulouse in the Investec Champions Cup at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night Picture by Brian Little

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland made no excuses after his side came up a distant second-best to French heavyweights Toulouse in the Investec Champions Cup encounter at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.

The home side conceded seven tries and ended up losing 48-24 to an Antoine Dupont-inspired demolition job that leaves Ulster with it all to do in Saturday’s final pool game against Harlequins in London.

The home side managed to record tries through Tom Stewart, Will Addison and the impressive Nick Timoney, and for some brief periods the decibels rose amongst the Belfast faithful as there were thoughts of at least a losing bonus point.

They left with nothing, however, and can have no arguments that the French side deserved their victory.

Dupont is leaving the international stage to concentrate on the Sevens programme in the hope of securing a place on the French Olympic side for their home Games this summer.

At times on Saturday night he teased the Ulster defence with effortless class, making clean breaks and running support lines that McFarland’s men could only dream of.

Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland
Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland admitted his side were outclassed by Toulouse at the Kingspan Stadium

The Ulster head coach had little cause for complaint afterwards.

“Ah look, it was really tough,” said a dejected McFarland.

“I felt for our guys, I thought a lot of effort went into that. A lot of effort went into preparation.

“They certainly left everything out there. We faced a Toulouse team that are outstanding in my view. They are very difficult to play against.

“Do I think we made it easy for ourselves? No. I think there were points in the game where we made a few errors and the difference was the fact they were good enough, very much good enough, to capitalise on those immediately. And also their physical presence in the game, around the set-piece and some of the collisions.”

The Ulster boss did retain the belief that if his side got everything right on the night, they would have been a closer match for Dupont and company, but may have required a couple of extra men in yellow and a straight-jacket for the visiting scrum-half.

“I’d like to think that at our best we could give ourselves a fighting chance,” he said.

“I don’t think we were tonight. We knew how good they would be coming in. They put 45 points past Lyon last week. They put 50-odd points on Harlequins when they went over there.

“They are very difficult to deal with. Size is becoming a massive thing in rugby at the moment. Most of the teams are chasing these enormous second rows and they are very difficult.

“They are massive men who are disruptive at mauls and maul defence, can play around the rucks, tying in bodies. And Toulouse have a couple of them.”

Meanwhile, hooker Rob Herring looks to be a doubt for the start of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign because of an arm injury.

The South African-born hooker picked up his injury in training during the week and missed the Toulouse encounter. He is expected to find out how long he will be on the sidelines for at the beginning of the week.