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Sam Carter: There's no margin of error for Ulster after Leinster defeat again showed the flawless level we have to reach

Lock admits only a flawless finish will secure place in final


Sam Carter

Sam Carter

©INPHO/Frikkie Kapp

Sam Carter

Having lost for the first time in the Guinness PRO14 this season, Ulster's Sam Carter knows his team can't repeat the dose if they are to have any hopes of making a second consecutive league final.

Dan McFarland's men remain top of Conference A despite falling 24-12 to Leinster on Friday, but Leo Cullen's long-reigning champions are now just five points behind and in possession of two games in hand.

With the two inter-provincial rivals presently still scheduled to meet again this season, Ulster's destiny remains in their own hands, if only just.

Twenty-five points from their last five games, including a 5-0 distribution of match points in that Leinster visit, and there'll be no stopping them topping the Conference. Any other outcome, however, and they're reliant on others denying their trophy-laden neighbours points, something only Connacht have managed so far in this campaign.

"We have to win every game that is put in front of us," said Carter simply. "There's only one team that goes to the final (from their Conference) so we'll have to win every game if we want to make it."

It could have been a very different story for Ulster, who led 9-5 at half-time but only managed one further penalty after the turn. Even then, with 10 minutes to go, the visitors were in line to claim a losing bonus point, while Leinster had yet to secure their all-important fourth try.

"It is pretty gutting," said Carter. "We came down here with a plan to go toe-to-toe with them for 80 minutes and get a result.

"We wanted to play territory and we wanted to be in their half and, when we got the opportunity, we were going to take the points and build pressure that way.

"There were parts of the game where we were good but, especially the first 20 minutes of the second half, they piled on the pressure and we couldn't get out of our own half. We weren't good enough."

After another dispiriting loss at the hands of Leinster - their fourth in a row against the side that has had a huge hand in ensuring their silverware drought goes back to 2006 - the question of whether there is some kind of mental block in the big games against this particular opposition will again come to the fore.

For his part, Carter believes the recent streak comes down to the quality of the opposition rather than any intrinsic psychological failing on their part.

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"I haven't played in Dublin that much," reflected the Aussie lock.

"The way I look at it is they are just another team and they are one of the better teams in the Conference. We want to match ourselves against the best, that's what we came here to do, but we didn't execute and that is something we need to get better at."

Indeed, he feels, that's what Ulster must improve in time for the next meeting. Unsure exactly when they'll next take the field given the confirmed suspension of European competition has postponed this week's originally scheduled hosting of Gloucester, the squad will likely have plenty of time to ruminate over this reverse but, for Carter, the focus must be placed on limiting needless errors.

"When we get those opportunities moving forward, we need to take them," he said.

"It is just the precision and the little errors that we keep making. I don't think there is any lack of effort or big players, it's just tiny little errors like not getting out of our own half and putting pressure on ourselves and ill-discipline.

"If you give a good team that many chances, then they are going to squeeze you and get the result.

"If you are one of the best teams in Europe or one of the best teams in the world, you don't make those errors and if that is what we want to be that is where we have to get to."

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