Sean Reidy says Ulster have to put the disappointment of the loss to Clermont in the European Champions Cup behind them and focus on big festive Irish derbies in the Guinness PRO12.
Having won a nine-try thriller in Belfast 39-32, Ulster went to France and the intimidating Stade Marcel Michelin hoping to keep their Champions Cup Pool Five hopes of qualification alive.
But the star-studded French side won 38-19, scoring 28 unanswered points in 45 minutes to leave Ulster floundering.
Although the Irish Province rallied to score three tries and bring themselves within nine points of the pool leaders - they were unable to make further inroads which could have seem them pick up a losing bonus point or even two with a fourth try.
“It is important we respond in a positive way when we host Connacht this weekend,” said Reidy.
The reigning PRO12 champions come to Belfast on a high after a last gasp home win over Wasps on Saturday to keep their European Champions Cup hopes of qualification alive.
Reidy told Ulster Rugby that while Ulster couldn’t match Clermont’s power in the first half, he still believes Les Kiss’ squad is more than capable of competing with the best teams in Europe.
“To be honest we’re pretty disappointed,” said the back row star.
“You can’t give away that many points in the first half and expect to win these kinds of games.
“Their home crowd really got in behind them and I just don’t think we were physical enough in that first 15 or 20 minutes and that set the tone for the rest of the match.
“We had too many knock ons and too many silly mistakes.
“We had a good spell in the second half when we showed that if we keep the ball in hand we can score tries against quality teams like this.
“We’ve got a lot of talent in this team and we know and we can be right up there with the best of them in Europe.”
The 27-year-old insists that following other results at the weekend, Ulster’s chances of progression to the Champions Cup knock-out stages are still strong if they can register wins in rounds five and six in the New Year.
“I haven’t read too much into the other results but we’ve got to really turn up and take it to Exeter and Bordeaux in our last two games.
“We can’t sit back on our heels, we’ve got to go and grab it ourselves.”
The resumption of the PRO12 marks two crucial games for Ulster as they look to keep their top four hopes on target.
“It’s a pretty short turnaround against Connacht - just five days - and we know they played pretty good at the weekend so it will be another big challenge for us,” said Reid.,
“We’ve got to put this behind us and move forward as quickly as possible and get back on track.”
l Sports sponsorship and television rights specialist Dermot Rigley will become the latest addition to the growing team at PRO12 Rugby when he joins the board as the Commercial Director in January.
Rigley has been recruited from RTÉ, the national television broadcaster in the Republic of Ireland, where he will depart his role as Commercial Head of Sport across TV, Radio and Digital.
The 40-year-old was part of the sports management team at RTÉ that successfully acquired broadcast rights to the Olympics, UEFA Champions League, the FIFA World Cup, the 6 Nations, the European Tour and the GAA Football and Hurling Championships.