The big debate that was had leading into the knockout games post-lockdown was had Ulster made progression? Was there tangible evidence this team was better than their 2018/19 counterparts?
On paper, the answer is yes. While 18/19 yielded a Guinness PRO14 semi-final and a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final, 19/20 provided a PRO14 final and another Champions Cup quarter-final. In literal terms, things that you can identify in black and white, that is progression.
In other ways there has been progression too. On the pitch, players have taken a step up. Think of the likes of Robert Baloucoune. James Hume. Billy Burns. John Cooney. Tom O'Toole. Matty Rea. All of them are undeniably better player than 12 months prior, to the extent that three of them received their first Ireland call-ups.
They passed the eye test week in, week out prior to lockdown as well, with the brand of rugby more appealing than in years gone by - less kicking, more keeping the ball alive and trying to inject some pace into games. Dan McFarland's philosophy in year two of the project finally paying dividends.
And yet for all of that progress, the points difference between themselves and their opponents in the knockout stages both domestically and in Europe was an eye-watering -47.
The gap was 22 against Leinster last week. It was 28 today in sunny Toulouse. Only their three-point win over Edinburgh three weeks ago saves it from being a half-century against.
Now, lockdown has had an impact, of course. Ulster have looked like a shadow of the side they did before Covid-19 made landfall in Europe, and how things would have transpired had none of this ever happened would have been very interesting to see.
How much Will Addison, Baloucoune and Luke Marshall would have helped in the Aviva Stadium final is certainly up for debate as well. Throw in Marcell Coetzee and O'Toole as well for today's defeat in France. All five would undoubtedly have improved the province markedly - maybe not enough to win, but certainly to make both games a contest.
But then the argument is that teams should be able to cope with losses, they should have the depth to cover. Perhaps not five, but certainly a few players.
This, for me, is what Ulster have discovered over the last few weeks. While they have a starting XV that can take on the best in Europe, they are still several players short from being able to consistently compete at the highest level, and that is why the next couple of years become vitally important.
Their depth has improved, no doubt. Eric O'Sullivan and O'Toole have come on leaps and bounds as props, to the extent that the latter has deservedly been getting starts on form. Alby Mathewson is an outstanding No.2 scrum-half and Ian Madigan is a former international at fly-half. Both the centre and back three have numerous options to choose from.
But still Ulster need more. They don't necessarily need to be at the same level as, say, Leinster, who could afford to start Ross Byrne in the PRO14 final in place of Jonathan Sexton, but they need to have enough players to cope with a few losses for key games.
So as we look forward to 2020/21, which is only a couple of weeks off given the compressed nature of the rugby calendar because of the coronavirus, the emphasis must now be placed on ensuring this is not a brief foray into knockout rugby, rather the start of a prolonged exposure to win-or-go-home games.
The crucial thing, however, is Ulster are not far off making sure they are long-term competitors on the continental scale, despite the scorelines.
On their day, their starting line-up can compete with anybody in Europe. Now the challenge is to ensure that it is not just that 15 that they have confidence in, but their entire squad, and that starts with looking at their Academy.
Tom Stewart is a highly thought of hooker, to the extent that he was down in Dublin with the team for the Connacht game. Azur Allison, Reuben Crothers and David McCann are all highly thought of in the back row. Nathan Doak and Lewis Finlay are quality half-backs, and Aaron Sexton has already had enough headlines on the wing.
Going into next season, the ambition has to be to start blooding some of those young players and to start increasing the number of options that Dan McFarland has available in the big games. That is where Leinster and Toulouse have thrived and it is where Ulster must aspire to be.
Only through players pushing for game time below the senior stars will Ulster continue to improve. The likes of Leinster and Saracens' big names know that one poor game could cost them their place in the team the following week - too many players at Ulster are safe in that knowledge currently.
As more young players push through with the hunger to represent the province, that will drive up standards throughout the squad. Iain Henderson has spoken about how professional the young players are - they need to ensure that continues too.
So with 2019/20 finally in the books - after a marathon 12 months - it's time to look ahead to the future. Ulster are still awaiting their first trophy since 2006 and they will have to go away and lick their wounds after two chastening defeats.
But their young players are one year older and now three knockout games - and, importantly, one knockout win - more experienced. That's acceptable for now, but eventually they have to replace that with silverware, they can't keep "taking the learnings" or "accumulating experience" forever.
However, under McFarland, they are certainly taking the right steps, and so far the players have responded. Now that they are starting to return to the promised land of consistent knockout rugby, they need to do what the province didn't do the last time they began to reach quarter-finals and semi-finals - stay there for many years.
If they can't, then all the progress means nothing, and all the "experience" gained from a 28-point loss in Toulouse will be completely worthless - just another turning over at the hands of a superior opponent.
But, if they can, then rather than a disappointing end to another season, it could become the catalyst that sparks a run to the top of the club rugby world, and that is done by ensuring the future will be just as promising as the present.
It's up to Ulster to determine which becomes reality.