Dan McFarland admits Ulster’s second-half mistakes and indiscipline cost them as Bulls storm back for big win

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was left to rue second-half errors, and a contentious late yellow card, after his side lost for a second week in succession on their South African mini-tour.

he northern province had led the Bulls 9-3 at half-time at Loftus Versfeld but the Pretoria-based outfit stormed out of the blocks after the turn, scoring four tries and 31 points in the second-half to triumph 34-16.

Old friend Marcell Coetzee got the first try of the game after missed tackles allowed the Bulls to advance up the field, while their second came after an Ulster pass didn’t go to hand.

Their third came directly from the penalty that saw Kieran Treadwell sin-binned for a tackle that appeared to begin at chest height before bouncing up over the ball, while their fourth was an intercept.

All avoidable in their own way, McFarland looked to such moments to explain how a seemingly once close game had ended in an 18-point reverse.

“I think it was a tight game other than two errors by us in terms of the wayward pass and then the intercept at the end,” he said. “That’s 14 points.

“We knew they’d come out hard at the start of the second-half. We missed a couple of tackles and they ended up scoring a try off the back of the scrum.

“We gave a penalty away and then the wayward pass and they were 20-9 points up.

“Even then we got back into it, really good play to get back to 20-16 and then the decision on the yellow card and that was the game, really.”

If the yellow card, that came when Ulster were down by just four with 15 minutes left, felt a turning point, the controversy was minimal compared to last week’s when the province had what would have been a match-winning score against the Stormers incorrectly chalked off.

Back-to-back defeats, though, have loosened their grip on second place in the URC table and the side will not arrive back in Belfast until Monday before having to depart for Toulouse and the first leg of their Champions Cup tie on Friday.

Despite the seemingly less than ideal preparation for what is one of the biggest games of their season, McFarland believes the past two weeks in South Africa will stand to his side as the season enters the business end.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done out here,” he said. “We’ve come away with one point, our performances deserved four points.

“Obviously we want two wins but it’s tough out here in these conditions, everything is a lot tougher than it is back home, but I’m really proud of the way that the whole group, the support staff, the players, have knuckled down and really worked hard.

“I believe that will stand to us going forward.

“It puts us in a much more difficult place in the URC now but there are a lot of really good teams in the URC and we’ll all be fighting over those top spots.

“That makes it exciting. The Bulls were a good team today but overall I’m very proud of the work the guys have done, the work they’ve done off the field and what the support staff have done to make sure we’re properly prepared.

“I’m really grateful for that and we’ll look forward to that standing to us going forward.”

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