PRO12: Ulster rocked by new injury fears
Ulster flew back from Swansea yesterday, after Sunday's 32-14 battering at the hands of the Ospreys, with fresh injury concerns ahead of their return to south Wales on Friday for their PRO12 League clash at the Dragons.
Not only did their three-game unbeaten run came to a juddering halt at the Liberty Stadium, but Ulster now have two more players receiving treatment ahead of the quick turnaround for the trip to Newport.
New signing Jared Payne was forced to leave the action in only his second game with a dead leg. The Kiwi full back is currently undergoing treatment as is hooker Andi Kyriacou, who hurt his neck in the scrums.
It is as yet unclear if both players will be able to travel to the Dragons while it remains to be seen if Ian Humphreys or Darren Cave, who both missed the Ospreys game, will also be fit.
Humphreys was a late withdrawal from the side selected to face the Ospreys after the shoulder problem he picked up in the game against Cardiff Blues - courtesy of a late hit by Casey Laulala - flared up again.
As for Cave, the in-form centre was withdrawn at half-time in the Blues game, after scoring two tries, with a hamstring strain.
Though Cave missed a large chunk of last season with the same problem it is believed that this time the issue is not as serious as before and there is generally some optimism in the camp that both players could be back this week.
Though both Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall - who filled in on Sunday for Humphreys and Cave respectively - had reasonable enough outings, with Jackson particularly catching the eye thanks to a well-taken try, the more experienced duo should be drafted straight back into the side if they are passed fit.
In the aftermath of Sunday's showing coach Brian McLaughlin was furious that his charges, who only trailed 12-7 at half-time, let the game slip away so easily and was also livid over the high number of penalties awarded by referee Dudley Phillips.
"To have 22 penalties given against us, we'll have to look at the match footage because that is more penalties than we have had against us all season," said McLaughlin. "Our discipline wasn't good though.
"This will have been a very steep learning experience. When you come to a place like Ospreys, you've got to be squeaky clean with your discipline, organised with the ball, put it in the right areas of the pitch.
"You can't allow yourself to get blown away in the contact areas."
With two PRO12 games remaining before the League takes a three week break - after Friday's game Ulster face Treviso at home the following week - the need to sign off with two more wins is vital to not only get the momentum back, but to also quickly flush the miserable Ospreys experience out of the system.
In particular, the pack will be under scrutiny this week after their performance level at the set-piece took a serious dip with prop and man-of-the-match Duncan Jones causing all sorts of problems for Ulster.
One from bottom Dragons will have plenty of motivation to win their second home game as they have already lost on the road to the other three Irish provinces.