McFarland to take over at Ulster today
Province’s young guns hold their own against Gloucester despite defeat
Ulster 17 Gloucester 29
Even though the result went against them, there was still some feel good factor for Ulster as they ramp-up preparations for what could be another challenging season.
First up, the province have confirmed that head coach Dan McFarland will start work today after managing to get an early release from his contract with Scotland.
Regarding the game, there were some notably attention-grabbing performances from the raft of young players Ulster deployed at the Kingspan Stadium for the province’s opening pre-season venture.
A host of them were making their senior bows with 17-year-old Aaron Sexton - also a notable athlete – being involved along with Michael Lowry, Stewart Moore, James Hume and Angus Kernohan all making decent impressions in a typically scrappy clash which saw both sides involve extended squads.
Though assistant coach Dwayne Peel made it clear that Friday’s last friendly outing at Wasps will see something more akin to the team likely to feature in their Pro14 opener at home to the Scarlets – with Stuart McCloskey, Johnny McPhillips and, hopefully, Marcell Coetzee all in the frame to be involved – he rightly praised the efforts of the young players.
“I think they didn’t let themselves down,” said Peel.
“They worked really hard for us and there were elements of the game that were really good. We put a pretty experienced Gloucester side under pressure on occasions and it was a good hit out.
“It’s good to get some learnings from the game, and that’s what we said to them after the game, we asked for hard work and to have a bit of spark about ourselves, and I think we delivered that,” Peel added.
There were also debuts for new signings Billy Burns – against his former club – as well as Marty Moore and Will Addison. Burns, a second half sub, worryingly limped off not long after coming on in what was Chris Henry’s testimonial game.
David Humphreys’ Gloucester – minus Danny Cipriani – led 14-12 after the opening half through tries from former Munster player Gerbrandt Grobler and Owen Williams while Ulster had also crossed twice through Marcus Rea and Nick Timoney.
Charlie Sharples got Gloucester’s third try shortly after the restart – which saw both sides make extensive changes – but Ulster closed the gap after Sexton linked well with Hume to put the latter over.
From there, the visitors, with Billy Twelvetrees and Matt Banahan making an impact, managed to finish with a flourish as Todd Gleave and Henry Purdy dotted down with the latter’s effort coming in the last minute.
Dan McFarland: released early from contract with Scottish Rugby