Ulster were better than Racing 92 scoreline suggests, insists Rory Best
Racing 92 44 Ulster 12
For Ulster skipper Rory Best, Saturday's defeat felt like something of a point dropped.
The 44-12 scoreline left little doubt over who was the better team but having scored two tries in the first 25 minutes through Dave Shanahan and Nick Timoney, the visitors certainly created enough opportunities to bag two more and bring a try bonus back to Belfast.
Their inability to turn opportunities into scores was in stark contrast to last season's beaten finalists, who took advantage of Ulster's set-piece struggles to cross the whitewash five times.
- I still feel sick: Simon Zebo gives Michael Lowry his jersey in apology for try-scoring taunt
- Rich rivals like Racing can't match Ulster's identity and desire: McFarland
"The scoreline suggests we were well-beaten but I think there were parts within the game where we really had a chance," said Best. "The difference is that at one stage when they were ahead, it felt like they took every opportunity they had.
"Some of that was our own doing. You want to be rock solid in all your aspects of the game but sometimes you have bits that aren't as good as you'd like them to be. You've got to have enough about you to scramble and fight and make sure they don't become seven-pointers.
"That's a learning for us. But having said that, there were aspects of the game we'll be really happy with. We went through phases, troubled them a lot - especially early on - then in that latter part.
"At 30-12, we had a couple of really good opportunities to take it to 30-19 and then you have a chance of coming away with a losing bonus point at a minimum, maybe two points if you get another try.
"There were aspects we'll be happy with and aspects that probably show the difference between a team that are favourites to win the competition and a team that are trying to take a step forward to get themselves into a position where they win tight games like that."
When all is said and done after the first two rounds of European action Ulster sit third in the pool with one win, one loss and no bonus points.
Whether they carry any European interest into 2019 will come down to the December back to backs with Scarlets, the Welsh side having lost both of their own encounters.
"I don't think it's changed a lot," said Best of Ulster's progression prospects. "There was a feeling before it that you've got to win your home games and get as many points away from home as you can. I think we had an opportunity here to get at least one point and we haven't got it.
"We had a couple of opportunities at the end of last week to get another point, which we didn't.
"Racing, as number one seeds, look like the team to beat in our pool but at the same time, we have four games now that we feel are four winnable games. Historically, you'll see that if you can get five our of six or four out of six with some bonus points along the way, you have a chance.
"We have back-to-back games against Scarlets, they're going to be fighting for their lives and I think, to a certain extent, so are we because we need to get something over there and probably need a win."
"We're not going to scramble. You saw last year that Scarlets lost their first two games and got through.
"We have to first make sure that we go back to the PRO14 and take the aspects that were pleasing over the last two weeks, march them forward, and the look at those little bits of improvement.
"Where we are at this point, early in the season, it's all about trying to improve. About trying to put steps forward together."
RACING: S Zebo; T Thomas, O Klemenczak, H Chavancy, J Imhoff; F Russell, X Chauveau; G Gogichashvili, C Chat, C Gomes Sa; D Bird, L Nakarawa; W Lauret, B le Roux, A Claassen. Replacements: T Baubigny (for Chat, 57), V Kakovin (for Gogichashvili, 57) , C Johnston (for Gomes Sa, 57), F Sanconnie (for Le Roux, 59), J Joseph, T Iribaren (for Chaveau, 24), B Volavola (for Russell, 71), L Paris (for Klemenczak, 65)
ULSTER: M Lowry; C Gilroy, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, D Shanahan; A Warwick, R Best, M Moore (for Kane, 52); I Henderson, K Treadwell; M Coetzee, J Murphy, N Timoney
Replacements: A McBurney (for Best, 57), E O'Sullivan (for Warwick, 40), R Kane(for Moore, 57), A O'Connor (for Treadwell, 57), S Reidy (for Timoney, 40), J Stewart (for Shanahan, 74), J McPhillips (for Burns, 46), A Kernohan (for Stockdale, 57)
Star Man: O Klemenczak (Racing 92)
Referee: Nigel Owens.