Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was a little more optimistic than expected when he spoke to the media after seeing his side fall to a second defeat of the season.
The northern province led Munster by a point with a quarter of the game remaining in Thomond Park but they weren’t able to capitalise any further as Andrew Conway’s sublime try 15 minutes from the full-time whistle proved the difference.
This was a game which Ulster could and perhaps should have won but McFarland was evidently looking at the bigger picture.
His side pushed Munster all the way in a fixture where they leaked 64 points last season and he knows that progress has been made in that period.
“In Thomond Park it’s intense and, for large parts of that game, physically we were excellent,” McFarland said of his side’s performance.
“We needed to be because it’s Munster in Munster.”
“To put yourself in a position where at 63, 64 minutes you’re a point ahead the game’s there for the taking, then to lose it is really disappointing,” McFarland continued.
“Ultimately, we turned the ball over in contact too much. Not handling errors, not passing errors, just in the bang and bash of contact.
”If we’d held onto the ball I think we would have caused them problems.
“I was proud of our physicality, proud of our set-piece. I thought that went well. Against a really excellent scrum and maul, I thought we did well.”
Next up for Ulster is a trip to Bath in the opening round of this season’s Champions Cup and the head coach will take confidence from how his side went toe-to-toe with a Munster team who pride themselves on a very strong setpiece.
“We go from one European fortress to another. Bath for a long time have prided themselves on set-piece and anyone playing in the Premiership has to be good at set-piece. We’ll have to step it up a gear going into Europe.”