Aaron Sexton's first taste of an interprovincial derby proved to be a tough learning curve but Dan McFarland has backed the Ulster wing to bounce back.

Sexton caught fellow wing Jacob Stockdale unawares with a quick lineout during the first half of Friday's 20-13 defeat to Leinster, which led to a turnover penalty that resulted in another try for Dan Sheehan from a driving maul.

Sexton was then denied a try with 11 minutes remaining as Ulster rallied, a brilliant tackle from Charlie Ngatai dislodging the ball as he dived over the whitewash.

"When you’re a winger and you make a mistake, it’s there for everybody to see," said Ulster head coach McFarland.

"That’s life in professional sport. We’ll rock up on Monday, we’ll look, learn and get on with it.

"Aaron is desperate to get better and he’ll take it as an experience that he can use to improve himself. Definitely I feel for him. It is what it is."

Ulster fell to just their second league defeat at Kingspan Stadium since April 2021

Both were crucial moments but it would be unfair to pin the defeat solely on Sexton's shoulders. It took Ulster an hour to get motoring, largely due to a struggling scrum and a high number of unforced errors, particularly when inside the Leinster 22.

They did score 10 unanswered points in the final quarter to set up a tense finish, replacement hooker John Andrew touching down from a lineout drive, but Leinster held on to avenge last season’s back-to-back losses against Ulster.

When asked what he took from the game, McFarland replied: "We’re not as good as Leinster. They brought an extremely strong team up here.

"We were bested in that first half but we’ve got some guts. There was no lying down and taking that. There was some real fight in the fellas to come back and squeeze a bonus point, which I thought was terrific.

"If the referee had given us the penalty for their offside off the back of the last scrum, which was a definitive offside, we’d have had a kick to the corner and another chance to maul them. That didn’t go our way but it got pretty close in the end, pretty tense.

"I’m pretty pleased with the fightback."

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Watch live coverage of Leinster v Cell C Sharks on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Saturday from 4.45pm.