Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was pleased to snap a losing streak with a well-deserved 22-11 victory over Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup on Saturday.
The victory is much needed, with Ulster struggling for form over the last couple of weeks after losing three in a row and six of seven in all competitions.
Tries from Rob Lyttle, Rob Herring and veteran Duane Vermeulen proved the difference against Sale, who are flying in the Premiership.
Tough last-16 tie
McFarland and his men sneak into the knockouts in the final spot of Pool B, and the coach is embracing what is likely an away tie against Irish rivals Leinster.
“That’s the goal, you want to play in the play-off games and we’ve done it again,” McFarland said. “I think our reward is a trip to Leinster.
“I quite fancy Leinster, challenge yourself against the best.
“We came out, we wanted to put on a performance at home, in front of our fans, in our house, and I thought the crowd was electric tonight, the atmosphere was brilliant.
“I think a chunk of that was to do with how we played. I thought we were excellent on both sides of the ball. It wasn’t perfect obviously but Sale are a really good team, they don’t let many tries in.
“I thought across the board we had some fantastic performances.”
Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson believes Ulster earned the result and credited the Irish side for their performance.
“It’s not that tough to stomach actually,” he said.
“Given the momentum shift in the second half I think Ulster thoroughly deserved it.
“They had us in the set-piece and they won most of the collisions and when you have those two things as feathers in your cap and you’re in the opposition half for 30-35 minutes, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.
“I’ve accepted that for what it is. Brilliant by them and we need to improve on certain aspects of our game that are our bread and butter.”
Sanderson and his team turned their attention back to the Premiership, where they are well placed in second on the table with a clash with Bath upcoming.
“We’re going well there,” Sanderson added. “That’s always the way, it’s the hamster wheel and you’ve got to get back on it.
“We’ll get back into the Prem next week with Bath at home.
“The Challenge Cup is still something we’ll focus on because of the exposure it brings young lads, and there were a lot of young lads out there tonight.
“They’ll be all the better for that, coming here and understanding what it’s about at this level.”
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