Individual errors cost spirited Ulster in La Rochelle defeat, says Kiss
Ulster were left to rue a number of costly errors on Sunday after a five-star La Rochelle side taught the province a harsh lesson on the French coast.
The 41-17 defeat at the Stade Marcel Deflandre saw the visitors ship five tries - including three in seven second-half minutes - and bring no points home to Belfast, but afterwards Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss maintained that criticism of his side was unfair despite the inflated scoreline.
While Ulster did defend with determination when under the cosh, they were decidedly second best after the turn and could gain little traction against a side who attacked with real purpose and made them pay dearly for their mistakes.
Kiss still maintained that he was encouraged by his side's efforts in a game that was just 13-10 at half-time. "We've got enough good things out of this game that can serve us well in the future," he said.
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"What doesn't always seem clear from the outside is clear from the inside. We're strong inside and that's the main thing.
"There was a lot of fight and spirit from our lads. We gave them too much time with the ball, particularly in that bottom corner in the second-half. We made simple errors that let them off the hook and against a team like this, on a patch like this, it probably old in the end.
"We can't be disappointed with the fight and the effort and the spirit that's for sure.
"A couple of tries came off loose passes that opened up an opportunity for them. Ultimately the effort and spirit was good but individual errors let them off the hook. That's cost us."
With Europe now on the back-burner until December, Ulster will be monitoring the health of out-half Christian Leali'ifano ahead of Saturday's PRO14 clash with Leinster after the Australian departed yesterday with a hamstring injury.
"We know what a big game this is against Leinster and we've got to dust down and get back into the job," Kiss said.
"I don 't think we'll be anything other than very excited. We've got them at home and we have to make that matter."
Man of the match Victor Vito, not surprisingly, felt the confidence his side displayed in their attacking game during the second-half proved crucial.
"The tie was still in the balance," said the two time World Cup winner of the difference from first half to second.
"So we needed to keep absorbing and absorbing because Ulster came to play obviously. We were up against it but we came out at the start and got some tries. I'm not sure what happened, I never understand how this team does it, to be honest. We just have confidence in ourselves.
"I think during the week we knew the massive challenge ahead of us but we were very lucky we were at home because we know it's going to be a different beast when we leave.
"We had to make the most of our home advantage. We love playing at this stadium and we were very lucky to kick on from some lucky breaks."