Ulster’s director of rugby, Les Kiss, admitted the side were in a bad place after yielding four tries to an impressive Saracens side in a 27-9 reverse in Friday night’s European Champions Cup group match at Kingspan Stadium.
In spite of leading 9-5 at the break, Ulster shipped 22 points in the second half as the English Premiership kingpins took control of Pool One after the first two rounds.
Two penalties and a drop goal from Paddy Jackson had given Ulster a 9-0 lead, but a Chris Wyles try 10 minutes from the break gave Sarries the confidence to press on in the second half in difficult conditions.
Alex Goode and Duncan Taylor crossed for tries when Saracens, for the second time in the game, were down to 14 men with the sin binning of Billy Vunipola, yet it was the latter who was to rub salt in Ulster’s wounds when he crossed for a bonus point-securing try with the final play of the game.
Kiss said: “It was a typical Saracens display and full credit to them, they hurt us the way they can hurt teams, but when you yield four tries at home that is a bad place to be.
“The first 25 minutes we put ourselves into a 9-0 situation and it was going to plan. But there was a 10-minute period when we did not manage the game at all.
“The try made it 9-5 give and gave them the lift they needed and something to work with. In the second half we failed to put any extra pressure on them and they were never threatened by us.”
In terms of denting their chances of making the knockout stages, Kiss conceded Ulster had been put somewhat on the back foot, but insisted hopes of Europe were not gone.
“It certainly probably puts Saracens where they will feel comfortable with - where they are heading in the competition,” he said.
“You have got to look at and say what do the two Oyonnax games give us? We have not played them yet, we are a game down in the competition. Saracens have to travel away to Toulouse, we have them home and away next and those two games are pretty defining in the whole mix of things.”
Saracen director of rugby, Mark McCall, who had previously been head coach at Ulster, admitted that coming to Ulster and getting a try-scoring point was something beyond their wildest dreams.
“We had to work hard for it. We did not do much wrong in the first 20 minutes but were 9-0 down,” he said.
“This team is very experienced and resilient and they found a way to claw their way back into the game before halftime, but the turning point came when having dominated the start of the second half the score was still 9-5.
“We then get a yellow card, but it was how we managed the period immediately after it which saw us turn the game around.”