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THE LOW POINT is the subject of debate. Rory Best reckoned it was Cardiff, a suitably chastening defeat that turned out to be a blast in the middle of the 2017-18 season.
For others, it happened before Jan.. December 2017, more precisely to a humiliation caused by Connacht. Jono Gibbes, their forward-coach at the time, hadn’t even been to Galway that day, and if anything summed up Ulster 2017/18, it was. You just never knew when or if they’d show up.
Good enough to do a number on La Rochelle, they were bad enough to lose to Zebre. Six wins out of seven at the start of their season preceded a streak of five out of seven losses between January and March and culminated in a crisis meeting after the 35:17 loss at Arms Park. « Don’t look for excuses, don’t look for someone else to blame, » Best told the squad. « We’ll sort it out ourselves. ”
You can’t say that now. Last season’s Pro14 finalists fly six out of six wins this season.
And so much of their resuscitation came from the man responsible for it. It’s worth noting that the first news of Dan McFarland’s appointment two and a half years ago was greeted with shrugs rather than cheers on the terraces. The lack of head coaching experience on his résumé did not entirely coincide with Ulster’s claim that they had based the world on the best possible candidate.
McFarland’s arrival sparked a resuscitation in Ulster.
Source: Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO
Under McFarland, Ulster’s mouth was revived and their crush improved. The most notable difference is the radiance of a spirit that never gives up and that shows through the turnaround in last season’s Pro14 semi-finals. But something else has changed.
Not so long ago Ulster were considered a good team, but a weak squad. That is simply beyond reckoning as McFarland has used 40 players so far this season who have experimented with selections and still continue to win. Not only are you six out of six, but four of those wins come with bonus points.
Better still, it happens to self-produced talent – Marcus Rea, Ethan McIlroy, and Stewart Moore are all making their first starts for Ulster this year. Year after year they bring talent through – first Jacob Stockdale, then Michael Lowry, then Robert Balacoune, then James Hume.
Amongst everything else, they also signed well – Ian Madigan, Alby Mathewson, Jordi Murphy. A team that was in midfield in 2018 was completely turned around.
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« If you play someone like Ethan (McIlroy) on a backline with Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy on the other wing, Mikey Lowry who played a lot for us and really understands the system, Alby (Mathewson) on Half the. » Scrum, Ian Madigan coming off the bench is much easier in this situation, ”said McFarland.
His beliefs have been sustained by results and during Scarlets tonight (Kickoff 7). 35 o’clock, eir Sport) will offer a considerably tougher test than Zebre. There is enough evidence that six out of six could become seven out of seven – even if the Welsh team impressed on their trip to Galway last weekend.
« It’s always difficult to win away from home, especially when you play against the Irish teams. Hopefully we can have better weather and good rugby out there, « said 21-year-old Scarlets wing Ryan Conbeer.
“It was a difficult start to the season, but we have some good wins. We just have to keep moving forward, working on the things we need to keep working on and just getting better at a roster. ”
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt. ), Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Sean Reidy and Marcell Coetzee.
Substitutions: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Craig Gilroy.
15. Angus O’Brien; 14th. Ryan Conbeer, Jan.. Steff Hughes (Capt), 12. Paul Asquith, 11. Steff Evans; 10. Dan Jones, 9. Dane Blacker; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Taylor Davies, Jan.. Javan Sebastian, 4th. Sam Lousi, 5th. Danny Drake, 6. Ed Kennedy, Jan.. Jac Morgan, Jan.. Sione Kalamafoni.
Repetitions: 16. Daf Hughes, 17. Phil Price, Jan.. Werner Kruger, 19. Jac Price, Jan.. Uzair Cassiem, 21. Will Homer, 22. Sam Costelow, 23. Tyler Morgan.
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