Pro14 Rainbow Cup: 'Ulster's season has fallen apart' - BBC analyst McWhirter

Michael Lowry and Shane Daly
Michael Lowry tackles Shane Daly during Ulster's 38-10 defeat by Munster

Former Ulster forward and BBC analyst Tony McWhirter says the Irish province's season "has fallen apart" following Friday's defeat by Munster.

The loss at Thomond Park saw Ulster fall to a third reverse in a row for the first time in more than three years.

Dan McFarland's side went down at home to Connacht in their Rainbow Cup opener and then lost to Leicester in their European Challenge Cup semi-final.

"Dan is going to have a bit of head scratching to do," said McWhirter.

"It started with the loss to Connacht, then the last 40 minutes at Welford Road and now going down to Munster," he added.

'Munster had all the aces, Ulster lack clinical edge'

Ulster conceded six tries in a 38-10 defeat at the hands of Munster, British and Irish Lion Iain Henderson scoring their only touchdown.

The visitors had Will Addison sent-off in the 39th minute, but were able to bring on a replacement 20 minutes later under the Rainbow Cup's trial laws.

"Ulster never really got started. They took a 3-0 lead but Munster dominated the first half while Ulster went down to 14 men for a period," argued McWhirter.

"Some of the replacements, Marty Moore and Callum Reid in particular, came on and had a forceful impact but you just felt like Munster had all the aces and whenever they were able to make even a half chance they took it.

"It's difficult to think of any clearcut chances Ulster instigated in the second half. Stuart McCloskey made a break but a bad pass to James Hume let Munster in and they ran 80 metres to score.

"There was a clinical element to Munster that Ulster just don't have."

Ulster losing physical battles

McWhirter believes Ulster, who play Leinster in Dublin next Friday, have especially "been found wanting in the physical stakes" in recent weeks.

"Connacht arrived in Belfast and took it to them and Leicester, when they got it right tactically in the second half, blew Ulster away.

"Again, Munster when they went through the gears, particularly up front, they bossed the contact situation really all game.

"Ulster struggled for the gain-line, struggled to get anything going.

"It's going to be an interesting end-of-season for a lot of these Ulster players. The squad is pretty much settled for next year.

"You really want to see some of the youngsters coming through but at the moment it just isn't happening the way Dan McFarland would like it to."

Ulster players dejected
Ulster players leave the pitch dejected after losing at Thomond Park

Something needs to change - Henry

Ex-Ulster back-row forward Chris Henry agreed that Munster had dominated the breakdown, although the trip to Thomond Park was always going to be a challenging assignment.

"Will Addison getting sent-off didn't help but Ulster had bigger problems than that," argued the former Ireland international.

"There was all the talk of them having their best chance to win a trophy for a long time and then it hasn't gone their way again.

"You don't turn into a bad team overnight but certainly something needs to change to get them back on track."

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