Rugby Union

McFarland rues missed opportunities as Ulster fall to defeat against Ospreys

Ulster Rugby head coach Dan McFarland said their failure to get any momentum going against Ospreys was a big factor in their second defeat of the season

United Rugby Championship: Ospreys 19 Ulster 13

A MISFIRING Ulster fell to their second defeat of the season against the Ospreys on Saturday afternoon.

Despite owning the ball for much of the contest, the visitors found the home defence a tough nut to crack.

Ulster continually took the game to the home team, but the Ospreys defence held on time and time again to frustrate the visitors and to deny Ulster the quick ball that their game is built on.

Ulster also suffered the double blow of losing both their hookers to injury.

Welsh international Bradley Roberts was forced off with an ankle injury on the half hour and was replaced by Tom Stewart, but it was a nightmare debut for Ulster youngster Stewart as he too had to retire injured in the 69th minute.

His injury saw prop Eric O'Sullivan move across the front row to see the remainder of the game out at hooker.

Not as good as we had been in the past was how head coach Dan McFarland described the performance.

“I think the first 20 minutes they came out firing as we thought they would," he said.

“Really aggressive in defence.

“We couldn't get any quick ball going. We couldn't get any proper gain line going or at least not repeated so, so we didn't get any momentum.

“We built quite a lot of pressure through holding onto the ball and creating opportunities but didn't get the ball over the line.

“You can see when you are away from home like that you got to take those opportunities and I think if we had taken those opportunities then it might have been a little bit of a different story.

“Give us a little bit of a lift and a little bit of a dampener on them. But it didn't and so it became a bit of an arm wrestle."

After a positive start, Ulster got their just reward on 14 minutes.

With Angus Curtis and Robert Baloucoune queuing up to score a certain Ulster try on the right wing, a deliberate knock on from the Osprey's Luke Morgan from Stuart McCloskey's pass saw referee Andrew McMenemy award a penalty try as well as sanctioning the Welsh winger to 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Stephen Myler and John Cooney exchanged penalties before the Ospreys broke through the Ulster defence just after the half hour mark.

Number 8 Morgan Morris powered over from close range in a rare home attack and Myler added the extra's before he kicked his side into a three-point half-time lead with a penalty on the cusp of the referee's whistle.

The second half took on a similar guise to the first half.

Ulster continued to dominate in both the possession and territory stakes with the Osprey's happy to defend and frustrate the visitors.

Cooney levelled the contest on 53 minutes but two Myler penalties by the 65th minute saw the Osprey's take control of the scoreboard as they took full advantage of Ulster's front row woes.

“In the second half we obviously had our troubles around the scrum with Brad (Roberts) having gone off, Tom Stewart got an injury to his foot which meant he couldn't push properly in the scrum. We started giving penalties away at the scrum," added McFarland.

“Eventually Tom had to come off. Eric had to come on. More penalties at the scrum.

“Obviously Eric can scrum at hooker but it's not his first position."

A late break from Mike Lowry almost brought the try that Ulster craved, but home defence forced another turnover and held on for a six-point win.

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