Ulster rise but injury toll mounts for McFarland ahead of Leinster clash
Ulster 33 Southern Kings 19
Ulster spluttered somewhat in leapfrogging over Benetton in the chase for a Guinness PRO14 knock-out spot.
They moved into second place behind Leinster in Conference B after running in five tries against Southern Kings in Belfast on Saturday night.
However, coach Dan McFarland will be assessing his injury woes ahead of their Champions Cup date against Leinster this Saturday at the Aviva Stadium.
McFarland is certain to be without full-back Louis Ludik, who limped off with a leg injury after only eight minutes on Saturday. McFarland also faces a possible dearth in midfield with both Will Addison and Craig Gilroy still unavailable with back spasms and young James Hume out for the rest of the season following surgery last week after having a plate inserted in a fractured right ankle sustained during training last Tuesday.
McFarland may have to call upon former Ireland centre Luke Marshall, who could make a dramatic comeback from knee reconstruction after picking up the injury in the final game of last season.
With veteran Darren Cave suffering from bruised ribs and also having to be escorted off the pitch, McFarland is now playing a waiting game.
"Jared Payne's wondering whether he should play, but we're saying definitely not - you've had your chance," laughed McFarland. "We will have to assess the injuries and see how Louis and Darren are. Obviously James is out. We'll have a look at Lukey and see how he's going on."
McFarland believes that Saturday's game was a good run-out ahead of the quarter-final as tries by Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Robert Baloucoune, Marcell Coetzee and John Andrew, saw them home. Ulster now have three games remaining in the PRO14 with away games against Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a home date with Leinster to finish the roster.
"We've put ourselves into the position that we said we wanted to be in," said McFarland, who was never worried when Ulster saw a quick-fire 14-0 lead diminish. "No, I wasn't to be honest. In terms of the game, we had plenty in us. I was never worried in the game it was just a question of how and when we pulled clear."
Ulster - L Ludik (M Lowry, 9); R Baloucoune, D Cave (Kernohan, 45), S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, D Shanahan (Cooney, 44); A Warwick (Herbst, 58), R Herring (Andrew, 73), M Moore (O'Toole, 27), A O'Connor (capt), I Nagle (Treadwell, 54), M Rea, N Timoney, M Coetzee (Ross, 54).
Southern Kings - U Beyers (Banda, 55); Y Penxe, M Rokoua (Classen, 65), T Kruger, B Basson; B Pretorius, S Ungerer; A Tshakweni (Ferreira, 40), M Willemse (Van Rooyen, 65), DJ Terblanche (Mguca, 55), A Van Schalkwyk, J-C Astle Greeff, 50), H Brown (Ntsila, 55, Williemse, 72), M Burger, R Lerm.
REF - L Linton (SRU)