Dan McFarland: Ulster coach says side have 'fair way to go' to join Europe's best

Louis Ludik celebrates with John Cooney after the scrum-half's late penalty earned a 25-24 Champions Cup win over Harlequins
Ulster celebrated after a dramatic win over Harlequins but Dan McFarland warned his players that they are not the finished article

Ulster coach Dan McFarland says his side still have a long way to go before they can be considered among Europe's top club teams.

The Irish province's third consecutive Champions Cup win came courtesy of a 79th-minute John Cooney penalty as they edged out Harlequins 25-24 in Belfast.

"We're on a journey and we've got a fair way to go before we become consistently good," McFarland said.

"I actually don't think we should be consistent at this stage."

Two of Ulster's three European victories this season have been decided by a single point, with their 18-13 win over Clermont their most comfortable success so far.

While their was much for McFarland to enjoy about his side's display on Saturday, not least Cooney's composure as he struck the decisive blow, Ulster's performance was laced with a number of errors which at one point allowed Harlequins into a nine-point lead.

Elia Elia scores the first of his two tries at Kingspan Stadium
Elia Elia's two second-half tries put Harlequins nine points ahead at Kingspan Stadium but Ulster fought back to snatch a 25-24 win

Top of their pool at the halfway point, Ulster are on course to reach a second straight European quarter-final but still have trips to London and Clermont to come.

"Over the last couple of weeks there's a lot of nice things being said about us in the press," McFarland said.

"I look at those and it makes me slightly nervous because I don't see us as good as that.

"I see us as a team that can grind out wins, that is in the process of becoming a consistently good team and that's what I want to be, we're not consistent."

The Ulster boss also accepted that his side will have to produce a far better display if they are to win at the Stoop next week, with Clermont breathing down their necks at the top of the group having secured three bonus points to Ulster's none.

With quarter-final places available to the pool stages' three best runners-up, a win over Quins next week would go a long way to putting Ulster right in the frame for a knock-out berth.

"I would consider us of being capable of being a top-eight team but we have to be at the top of our game and perhaps get a little bit of luck along the way to think about quarter-finals as being a consistent thing," McFarland said.

"We're definitely not there yet."

Clermont host Bath in the other Pool Three encounter next weekend, with the English Premiership side now firmly out of quarter-final contention having lost all three of their games so far.