The look of utter frustration on the gaunt face of Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin following his side’s latest defeat was that of a man at his wit’s end.
Speaking after Saturday night’s 33-24 defeat by Cardiff Blues he tried to find redeeming features in Ulster’s latest performance, though a draw followed by three successive reversals in their past four matches made that a difficult task.
But his most telling words were “not good enough”, “in a rut” and “in a dogfight now”.
“We went out tonight quite positive because obviously Connacht did us a bit of a favour last night in beating Edinburgh which brought us hope again of maybe getting to the top four,” he began.
“But I think we’ve got to be brutally honest here and say that our performances just are not good enough at the minute.
“We let our heads go down very, very quickly. We played well tonight for the first 15 minutes and then we present them with an intercept try and we present them with soft penalties. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
He likened Saturday night to a re-run of the March 5 match against the Scarlets, which Ulster lost 25-8, “where we played very, very well but we couldn’t hold on to the ball.”
He continued: “We have talked long and hard about this team developing but I think at the minute we’re caught just a little in a bit of a rut. We’re not performing the way we should.”
Referring to the on-going problem of discipline, he conceded: “We’re in a position where we play some great rugby, we score a nice try and then straightaway from the restart we give away another penalty. There comes a point where we have to take a good look at ourselves.”