Ulster coach Dan McFarland bemoaned his side’s wasted opportunities and the conceding of “soft tries” after they opened their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a 29-22 home defeat to Toulouse.
In a game played in difficult conditions, the Irish province surrendered their two-year unbeaten home record in all competitions to French giants Toulouse, who also put them out at the quarter-final stage of last season’s competition.
The four-time champions left Belfast with a bonus point from this hard-fought win, which saw South African World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe score two of Toulouse’s four tries. He also bagged a brace in the last-eight clash between the sides in September.
“We gave up some soft tries on defence and probably didn’t take a couple of chances we could have done,” said McFarland, whose side picked up a losing bonus point.
“But we also played some really nice stuff and worked really hard. We had them under pressure for a lot of the game but key moments are absolutely pivotal.
“You can also say that when we were 12-0 up and gave away a soft try from a penalty ball on the floor and they ran it in from 60 metres out, that was a pretty pivotal moment.
“We had pinned them down in their half at that stage.”
Referring to the heavy defeat Ulster suffered in Toulouse in the quarter-final, McFarland took no consolation from getting closer this time around
“We weren’t as good as we can be, particularly on the defensive side of the ball,” he said.
“We had weapons tonight and we didn’t have weapons in the quarter-final.
“In terms of consolation, no, we’ve lost at home and that’s not something we’re used to doing and I’m really frustrated.”
Double try scorer Kolbe commented: “Coming to Ulster was never going to be easy.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the boys and coaching staff for the game plan.”
Reflecting on his contribution, Kolbe added: “Sometimes I think my body just takes over.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and the forwards laying the foundation for me.
“I just had to finish off the opportunities.
“There aren’t a lot of teams who come here and win, so I think we can take a lot of confidence from this.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now