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Best: Ulster have to shrug off Champions Cup woe

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster captain Rory Best says the side cannot let their Euro exit derail the season.

The province had the chance to book their first European quarter-final since 2014 over the weekend but a heavy loss to Wasps in Coventry on Sunday ended their Champions Cup interest at the pool stage for the fourth year in a row.

While victory would have been a huge boost and provided an April European tie to look forward to, Best says the side must put the bitter disappointment behind them.

"It's hard because you're looking immediately at the result and it was bitterly disappointing not to get the quarter-final," said Best, who is now preparing for the Six Nations Championship with Ireland and next week's opener against France.

"It was frustrating, but it did come down to accuracy.

"We'd put ourselves in a great position to win the pool but I still feel we're building and we've got to just keep improving."

Best had been left visibly bristling after some recent Ulster performances but thought that the round six defeat at the Ricoh Arena offered areas to build upon.

While the province were well beaten, a fifth loss by more than two scores already this season, the hooker did not feel there were any parallels between this and their heavy inter-pro defeats over the festive season.

"As difficult as it is, we've got to take positives from that and really look at why we fell down," he said.

"It was really nice to say it wasn't the physicality, and I think we as players have been guilty of that at times this season. Away to Leinster, it got away from us and we let it get away from us.

"But I think there was a fight and resolve (on Sunday) to try and stay in a game that wasn't going our way.

"Something like that is something we've got to build on. But we've got to try and not let games get into that scenario, we've got to win big moments that turn the game."

The idea of winning the moments is something that Best has spoken of before this season and Sunday was another example of how Ulster can be the instigators of their own demise.

It was striking to see how quickly they went from opposition territory to their own tryline for Wasps' first score, with what began with their own attack ending up in a maul try for Guy Thompson.

For Best, the team's error count was simply too high, highlighted by 19 turnovers despite just 45% possession.

"We have to improve the accuracy," he said.

"I think what summed it up was the fact that we went from scrum penalty to the next scrum getting penalised. Little moments like that just let a team off the hook.

"It means they can kick it into our half and get the line-out as opposed to us getting it and potentially putting them under pressure.

"They're the little inaccuracies, the little moments where we just switch off a bit that we've got to get out of our game.

"When you look at some of the aspects we asked to back up (from the win against La Rochelle), our energy, enthusiasm and physicality were actually there.

"It's just the inaccuracies and, in those tough conditions, it felt like in the first half every time we got a foothold, we coughed it up or gave away a penalty and we just went back.

"We showed some resolve to hold them out at times, so we backed it up in our preparation but unfortunately, in conditions like that which really test your accuracy, we fell just a little bit short.

"Then, any balls we were taking, we were just double catching at it, getting a bit of back shoulder and having to check and that played into their hands in terms of the breakdown because we couldn't get front foot and to be fair to their No.6 and No.7 it was hard to tell which was which.

"They were over everything and any time we got something going, a lot of the time they killed it."

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