Ulster coach Mark Anscombe felt fullback Jared Payne should have seen yellow and not red in Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final tie with Saracens.
The Irish Province had to play with 14 men for 76 minutes of the contest after Payne was shown a straight red card for an in-air collision with Saracens fullback, Alex Goode.
It ultimately changed the dynamics of the match, but Saracens never made the numerical advantage count and in the end were battling furiously to hold on to a narrow 17-15 lead in the closing minutes.
Anscombe, hugely disappointed to have lost for a second successive season in the quarter finals, praised his side for battling through with 14 men and running Saracens - who scored three tries - so close, with an Ulster win a possibility right up until the final play.
“When you lose a pretty important player five minutes into the game, you’re always going to have your backs to the wall,” Anscombe said.
“It’s unfortunate. It was a collision in the air and did it warrant a red card? I think we’re pretty hard done by there.
“Sometimes I think with these it’s the emotion of the injury (that) creates the penalty, and I think at worst it was a yellow card. To have a red card four minutes into the game meant we were always going to be chasing our tails.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to the boys to hang in there and, to actually be taking the game to them and trailing 17-15 in the 80th minute, we’ve got to be really proud of their effort.
“Jared, the whole time, had his eyes on the ball. I mean, how’s that a red card? I think that’s the emotion of the injury,” Anscombe added.
“You saw how difficult it was as, a couple of the tries they scored, we had numbers down. We went to the break at 9-5, which was a pretty good feat, and to keep it so close at the end... but that’s the way it goes at times.”