Magners League: Winning next match is crucial, says Ulster coach McLaughlin
Having seen his team lose key matches in two competitions in the space of six days, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin acknowledges that what matters now is getting the train back on track.
“We have just been given a very painful lesson in finishing,” he said in the aftermath of Ulster’s five tries to two 34-26 Magners League defeat by Leinster on Saturday night at the RDS.
“They were clinical and we weren’t. We created a number of chances and we didn’t take them — Leinster created five and they took every one. They were ruthless.
“Fair play to them. Currently Leinster are one of the best teams in Europe — possibly the best. They have just reminded us why.”
With Leinster having leapfrogged Saturday night’s visitors to go second in the table, Ulster’s prospects of securing a play-off semi-final date at Ravenhill have taken a serious jolt.
“It is vital that we now put all thoughts and talk about where semi-finals are played out of our heads,” McLaughlin said.
“We now need to concentrate on winning two very important rugby matches to make sure we finish in the top four. That must be our focus. We will take whatever comes beyond that.
“We will be talking about the next game — the next challenge is to beat a very good Connacht side on Friday night at Ravenhill.
“It’s back to basics now. It is going to be about preparing to do what we need to do, which is win our next match.
“We have had two defeats —both away from home — against two sides who are in the last four of this season’s European Cup. That has been painful.
“We made a bad start against Leinster and found ourselves playing catch-up as a result. But the players showed great courage and pride in the second half in particular. They kept playing and kept going so I think we can take encouragement from that.
“But we need to learn the lessons, too. Leinster were ruthless. We weren’t. When they get a sniff of something, they grab it. We didn’t do that so that’s something we need to improve.
“Leinster are a quality side and that’s something they’ve just reminded us of.”
McLaughlin added: “So now we go and do what we have to do to be ready for Connacht.”