Director of rugby, Les Kiss, said he would be hugely disappointed if he did not get a response from his players when Oyonnax come to Belfast on Saturday to face Ulster in their final Pool One game in the European Champions Cup.
Ulster’s hopes of making the knockout stages hang by a thread following a second thrashing by tournament favourites Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday.
A powerful second half display by the English Premiership leaders saw them run in three tries to add to one at the end of the first half and given them a second bonus point victory over the Irish Province.
Their fifth straight win in the pool also secured their spot as group winners and guaranteed them a home draw in the quarter-finals.
Ulster remain on 13 points in Pool One and need to take all five match points when they face Oyonnax next Saturday at Kingspan Stadium as well as giving their aggregate points difference a boost and improve their chances of going through it a head to head situation with another runner-up developed.
A disappointed Kiss admitted Saracens had taught his side a lesson - and not for the first time.
Saracens came to Belfast in November and were :??-?? winners, securing a try scoring bonus point.
“They teach you a lesson each time you play them. This game and the last game.
“It is not good enough to sit back and let the things happen that did in the second half. We have just got to get better.”
In terms of further progression, Kiss said: “The truth is now we have to get five points and we also have to sit and wait for a couple of results. We do not control our destiny completely.
“It is not the ideal position to be in. But it is a weird competition, every year it does something different. We will see what happens
“But we did not look after the things we could have today and we have to make sure we do that next week to put pressure on the resit of the competition.
And he added he would be disappointed if the side did not respond as he expected them too against Oyonnax.
Having gone 3-0 down to a second minute Owen Farrell penalty, Ulster stunned the home side with a superb try, Stuart McCloskey instrumental in the initial break but Jared Payne, making his first appearance for Ulster this season, put through a lovely grubber kick for Luke Marshall to rush in and touchdown. Paddy Jackson converted for a 7-3 lead which Farrell reduced to three points with a second penalty - although he was to miss two other attempts.
However, it was towards the end of the half that Ulster had Sarries under the cosh and having opted put a penalty to touch, fluffed the lineout and then another one immediately after when the hosts had cleared.
Kiss said: “I thought in the first half we did enough to be better than where we were but when you get down that end of the pitch, you back yourself to go to the sideline and you don’t quite know what you need to do at the setpiece to set it up then it’s costly against a team like Saracens.
“We only have ourselves to blame. It was a hurting dressing room. It was an opportunity lost in a lot of ways because of what we did early in that first half but we just didn’t get back to that part of our game that we knew we could play to.”
Kiss added: “We did not respond as I thought we would in the second half.
“Saracens have a ruthless efficiency to their game and it came to the fore again today. We reacted rather than hold our composure and play to what we know we can.”
Toulon have won the last three European Cups and are seeking to equal fellow Top 14 side Toulouse’s four-times record. However, Kiss believes Saracens are certainly a side that can challenge the star-studded champions.
“At the beginning of the whole thing the one team I believed that could challenge Toulon would be Saracens. Each week your belief becomes stronger that that is the case.
“They (Saracens) do their job for 80 minutes and you hare got to be able to work and play against that.
“We had minutes today that were good, but we did not have the 80 minutes that were good.
“Most of their 80 minutes were pretty good and that is a hard thing to play against and we have got to take that hurt and make sure we transition it into a reaction next week,” he added.