At face value it could just have been one of those off-days. Fine, except that what happened against Connacht last month still has that gnawing feeling of something more deep-seated.
Soon we’ll know just what that collapse really did signify, if anything, and whether Ulster might struggle for breath over the next 10-game segment of the season which will be make or break for Europe and where wobbly form could also be damaging in the URC with Leinster (twice), Connacht, Munster and the Ospreys all to come.
Ulster went into their down-time looking suitably shell-shocked after coughing up five tries to the westerners and, actually, Dan McFarland appeared much the same, ending up wondering aloud if his squad just cannot cope with being favourites in certain situations.
It was quite an admission really. You hope that McFarland has used the break in games wisely to both refocus and reassure his players. There will doubtless have been plenty for team psychologist Darren Devaney to address as well never mind all the on-field malfunctions seen on October 23 at the Aviva.
The hope is the Connacht performance was just a bad day at the office in terms of the URC and that the recent A game with Leinster – a narrow defeat – at Banbridge will have brought some means of moving forward.
Now though it’s back to the serious business. They face Leinster away this Saturday before travelling to the improved Ospreys and then their first two Champions Cup ties, away to Clermont and home to Northampton Saints.
Then on Boxing Day, it’s Connacht at the Kingspan with the New Year opening with Leinster also at home before Munster away and back into Europe.
If Ulster don’t start firing on Saturday at the RDS, it could be very difficult for McFarland to wrestle the momentum back. In many ways, how Ulster respond now will be a reflection of McFarland’s influence and abilities.
True, Duane Vermeulen will hopefully be on hand for some of these encounters, the four European matches looking to be his bread and butter, but one player alone is unlikely to suffice should the team not put in some convincing performances.
Having said that there is still no sign of John Cooney – though admittedly Nathan Doak has been a revelation – nor indeed of Jordi Murphy, two big game players to call upon.
Remember they began this season by directly taking on the elephant in the room over the continuing lack of silverware by stating that they had to lift a trophy. That was a bold statement but needs backing up with fire and fury and not something which peters out in a whimper.
While European success always looks very challenging, they will not want to drop too many more matches in the URC.
The genuine concern is that up to crossing swords with Connacht, Ulster have simply flattered to deceive. Yes, winning games but not entirely firing against opposition not likely to challenge the upper end of the URC table.
That is no way to plot your route towards knockout rugby whether in Europe or the league.
And now they return to the fray to face, well, Leinster away in a fixture that has brought so much misery in recent times whether it be in regulation season or knockout games.
Yet might this be the best time to head over the border as Leinster have provided so much heavy lifting for Andy Farrell’s starting sides over the Autumn series?
A much more diluted Leinster selection – though that in itself is not weak by any means – going up against an Ulster squad that could well be close to full strength offers McFarland the wriggle room for a positive statement with them unlikely to be favourites at the RDS.
You could argue that Ulster’s Ireland hopefuls fluffed their audition for national recognition when Connacht took them to the cleaners. Now they have an opportunity to put that right by ending the Dublin hoodoo but, more importantly, demonstrating that they are primed for this point of the season.
Whatever happens, abject failure in Dublin will be rather more difficult to explain away as just another off-colour effort.