Proud Doak says beaten Ulster boys can hold their heads high
Ulster coach Neil Doak still believes that his injury-ravaged squad can regroup to end their crushingly disappointing European season with a home win over Leicester Tigers on Saturday.
After falling to a record defeat at Toulon - when the back-to-back European champions scored eight tries in their 60-22 triumph to secure a quarter-final place - and shipping injuries to three more key players, Doak insisted on remaining upbeat despite overseeing Ulster's first group stage exit from the competition since 2010.
"People on the outside think it's doom and gloom, but we were up against a star-studded side," Doak said.
"We don't have the resources they have and we've got to be realistic. But we want to compete at that level and I think we're building to get there," he added.
The coach's problems going forward to their now vital PRO12 campaign were added to with the loss of Paddy Jackson with a dislocated elbow, while Louis Ludik broke a rib and Stuart Olding picked up an elbow injury, the extent of which has yet to be diagnosed.
"Over the last number of years we've been pretty competitive in Europe, and last year it was six out of six and we did pretty well, but this season has been disappointing," Doak added.
"People don't realise the toll it takes on a squad to continually lose players, the game before (at Treviso) it was Wiehahn Herbst and Dan Tuohy this time it was Louis Ludik, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.
"We'll now have to recuperate after this and it was a pretty big effort," the coach said.
"We'll take stock and make sure we're ready to go (for Saturday against Leicester Tigers).
"They'll (the Tigers) be looking at coming here to do well and I think Richard Cockerill (Tigers' head coach) said they were coming to Belfast to get a bonus point," Doak added as Saturday's opponents will be aiming to also make the last eight as a best runner-up.
Despite the huge scoreline, Doak praised his bottom-placed side for the way they had stuck at it against huge odds at the Stade Felix Mayol and made off with a try bonus.
"I'm not worried about the scoreline," he stated. "We needed everything to go our way but that's by the by now and I'm just very proud of the players. They can hold their heads high.
"I said to the guys that if we play with that intensity for the rest of the season and get a few of the injured bodies back then the work we've been doing will pay dividends for us.
"To come here and get four tries, I thought we caused them a few issues and I thought the boys were outstanding in the effort they put in.
"If you look at it with the injury profile that we've had, we've (still) been competitive and I think the boys have done outstandingly well," the coach stated.