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'Very unusual for us' - Mixed feelings for Dan McFarland after Ulster win

By PA
Ulster v Northampton Saints – Heineken Champions Cup – Group A – Kingspan Stadium

Ulster coach Dan McFarland was happy with the result but not the performance as his side beat Northampton 27-22 in the Heineken Champions Cup.

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Leading 27-12 as the hour mark approached, with tries from Rob Herring, Ethan McIlroy and Craig Gilroy plus a penalty try, they were almost pegged back as Alex Mitchell and Courtnall Skosan crossed for Saints.

After making it two wins from two in the competition, McFarland said: “We put three tries on the board, nice counter-attack, nice phase play.

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“On each occasion we were scoring and they were kicking into our half, we weren’t being accurate with our exiting and it was giving them an opportunity to get a foothold and put points over, and that’s what they did.

“In fact, I think a massive chunk of their points came in the three, four minutes after we scored. That is very unusual for us.

“In the last three or four games we’ve been excellent at exiting our half, really precise. But we did odd things, little offloads, losing the ball in contact, trying to get the ball away from mauls and giving up possession. That was a key reason why we weren’t able to maintain control on the game.

“Then, in addition, the back-row battle was a very interesting one, in that third quarter they started winning a lot of collisions. We started to get very handsy with our tackles which, again, is very unusual for us.

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Dan McFarland
Dan McFarland /PA

“Duane (Vermeulen) is a legend of producing a steal at the exact moment you need it, and Nick (Timoney) and Marcus (Rea) have been doing that well in recent games. I thought that was an interesting battle.”

Saints coach Chris Boyd was disappointed as the English Premiership side came up short.

“It was frustrating, we let them get out to a bit of a lead and we probably clawed our way back into it but it was just little bit of inaccuracy and little bits of not reacting to what was going on,” he said.

“The pivot point was the penalty try he gave, the penalty try and the yellow card (to Mitchell) was pivotal because very wisely Ulster scored their next try with a chip that the half-back would normally be in that space, so it’s disappointing.”

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Boyd saw the losing bonus point as no consolation.

“We came here to get more than one point and I guess the only thing is that hopefully we will have a chance to play them again in three or four weeks’ time,” he said.

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Shaylen 35 minutes ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 6 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

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