If you want to look for mitigating factors for Ulster’s sub-performance against Glasgow last weekend, there are plenty to find.
Firhill is a horrible place to visit, it always tends to be a tight game, Ulster’s star players were missing, and there was a sense of Heineken Cup hangover.
However, to focus on this would detract from the fact that Ulster could and should have won this game.
Decisions bordering on the irrational were made when Ulster were in key positions.
Given the weather conditions, there was also a palpable lack of respect for the ball.
Ultimately, there was plenty of territory and pressure, but precision and accuracy were missing.
As soon as Ulster came close to the opposition 22, the ball was spilled and crucial possession lost.
Based on the assumption that the players are good enough, several potential reasons jump out: either a sense of panic takes hold of players, there is a natural impulse to complicate play or a lack of clarity in what is trying to be achieved, or a general lack of confidence in the absence of the star names.
Once again, I thought Paul Marshall’s effort was admirable, as he did everything he could to lead and shape play. The smallest man on the pitch has grown in stature in the last three weeks. One particular example of the profligacy comes to mind.
It was lashing down, Ulster had an excellent attacking lineout deep in opposition territory and the ball was thrown to the back of the lineout. It asked for trouble and that is exactly what it got.
Glasgow got across the line due to an attitude that they had to make amends for their non-performance against Leinster the previous week.
Ulster are in a similar position this weekend. There can be no excuses at Ravenhill — there needs to be an immediate and forceful backlash against the Scarlets.