Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe, admitted the narrow loss to Leinster in Saturday’s PRO12 championship play-off was particularly hard to take.
Three Paddy Jackson penalties before his retirement with injury had given Ulster a 9-0 lead against the top seeds from the regular PRO12 season and defending champions, Leinster.
And even when Leinster outhalf Jimmy Gopperth kicked two penalties to make it 9-6 in the second half, Ulster still looked as they were in control and would make the Grand Final against Glasgow Warriors on May 31.
But Leinster replacement Ian Madigan scored the only try of the match nine minutes from the end and Gopperth’s conversion made it 13-9 to the hosts - and it proved to be the vital scores in the end.
Last month Ulster lost agonisingly by two points to Saracens in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, albeit having played for the most of the game with 14 players.
It was tough to take and after losing to Leinster in another knock-out game Anscombe admitted it was hard to take.
“This one is probably harder to take. It is hugely disappointing because we could be in a final now and it was just one or two little things tonight which cost us.
“It was not major areas, that let us down. It was not about being unlucky or being pounded (by the opposition) we did enough out there to win that game.
“It was about not being smart enough or cute enough to finish off an opportunity at crucial times.
“We created three of four opportunities and did not take them. They (Leinster) had two, and took one of them.”
Leinster have enjoyed a richness of success in the past four or five years having come so close prior to that.
He accepted that if Ulster could get over that threshold of winning big games, then it would happen for them too.
Anscombe said: “The fact is we are getting into these situations (knockout rugby), but the fact also is we are not taking these opportunities and we have to find out why, what do we need to do to our game better next year.
“If you look at the year we have had and where we have been and where we played and the results we got, we have got tremendous character in this team. You can never question that.
“But what we have to do is balance that character with clarity in what we do, how we communicate.
“We cannot rely on one or two people on being the ones who create the organisation.
“Everyone has to take responsibilty.
“It is all right having a run, putting in a good tackle or doing something good.
“We have to reload, we have to regroup, you have got to get back into position quickly, little things like that we have got to do a little better than perhaps we have one some occasions.
“We will work hard on doing that so that when we come back next year and find ourselves in these situations we are able to do better and make that step.”