Murray Kinsella reports from Paris
FOR THE FIRST 25 minutes against Racing 92 last night, Ulster looked like the better team as they scored two excellent tries through Dave Shanahan and Jacob Stockdale.
They looked good again in the middle part of the second half, although they couldn’t find the finishing touches after manufacturing some promising opportunities in attack.
But in between those patches and in the closing 10 minutes, we got a firm reminder that patience is required with this Ulster project, which is only three months old under head coach Dan McFarland – the man tasked with bringing the province back towards trophy contention.
Racing’s Finn Russell with Ulster captain Rory Best. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Racing 92 are at a different stage of their journey, having secured a Top 14 title in 2016 and narrowly lost last season’s Heineken Champions Cup final to Leinster. With a space-age stadium in Paris La Défense Arena and the notable wealth of Jacky Lorenzetti behind them, they will be contenders in Europe again this season.
Ulster’s 44-12 defeat to Racing last night underlined that the Irish province have a long way to go yet, even if the manner of this loss rankled.
“We got a glimmer of what we’re capable of, then we got a lesson in accuracy,” said McFarland afterwards.
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“Throughout the game, we demonstrated we can cause them trouble, but ultimately there were a couple of things that needed to go right for us to be competitive throughout and have a chance of winning.
“One is that if we got a chance to keep hold of the ball, we needed to take it, and we didn’t do that.
“The lineout was one which didn’t go great, we have to be better in that. One of the areas that we have been used to getting access at is turnovers at the breakdown and I thought they were excellent today, they hung on to the ball really well. That wasn’t an access.
“The other was we were given a lesson in terms of accuracy in finishing off.