I knew Ulster were a good side, but we must push on after Edinburgh win, says Cave
For both Ulster and Darren Cave, Friday night's out of the blue victory over Edinburgh offered a measure of vindication.
The side hadn't won away in the Guinness PRO14 since the first weekend of November prior to their trip to Murrayfield, but the 32-20 triumph saw them claim a vital five-point haul and break a three-game losing skid.
Breathing belated life into their play-off hopes, while also keeping Benetton at bay in the race to claim a place in the one-off game to decide the league's final Champions Cup qualifier, the win was among Ulster's best of this disappointing season.
Cave, whose restoration to the side was marked by scoring one try and helping create another in a strong display, gave an interview to The Belfast Telegraph last month stating his belief that the province were still a good side despite recent struggles. The recently turned 31-year-old revealed the stance had seen him criticised on social media.
While noting there is still plenty more to do to save the season, Cave was pleased to silence some of those critics.
"It's been hard to put the finger on what's been going wrong," admitted the long-serving centre.
"I get frustrated when people say it's a lack of passion or a lack of effort and lack of enthusiasm because I think that's completely wrong.
"I said a couple weeks ago I didn't think this was a bad Ulster team, and I thought (instead) that we had underperformed a lot this year. I stand by that. I don't think this is a bad team.
"I got a lot of flak on social media for saying that I believe in this team and that in my opinion it wasn't a bad team but we showed that (against Edinburgh)." With home games against Ospreys and Glasgow to come over the next two weeks, before finishing up with a trip to face Munster, Ulster are eight points behind Edinburgh with a game in hand so would still need plenty to go their way to overhaul Richard Cockerill's men for a place in the quarter-final round of the PRO14.
Still one point ahead of Benetton, who travel to Leinster this weekend, one more win would likely see them host the Champions Cup play-off, which at present would mean a visit from Allen Clarke's Ospreys.
After the high of beating Edinburgh, Cave insisted that similar levels of performance will be required from here to the finish.
"I think it's about time we started to get some reward for our efforts. A lot of our performances have come in for a bit of criticism and a lot of that has been fair enough. I don't think it's been from a lack of effort.
"I've said before what we can do when we get our clarity, when we're well organised, when we get our intensity right. I thought we looked a different team, it was much more like us. But that's not a cup final for us, hopefully there's more to come over the next few weeks.
"We can worry about Treviso, we can worry about Edinburgh but the bottom line is that we've a few more games and we can play like we did here."
Despite their struggles on the road this season, Ulster have still lost only twice at home during the campaign, to Leinster and Edinburgh. In Ospreys on Friday (7.35pm kick-off) however, they are facing one of the league's form teams.
Under Clarke the Welsh region have reeled off four wins on the trot. Ulster's European Cup winning hooker left Kingspan Stadium last summer, originally to take up the role of forwards coach in Swansea. He assumed the top job on a temporary basis when Steve Tandy left Liberty Stadium in January and will be looking to add to his increasing case to be awarded the head coach position on a full-time basis. They've beaten both Leinster and Connacht over the last two games, winning 39-10 over the western province on Friday night to boost their own Champions Cup hopes.