Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, said his side had not lacked spirit in Friday night’s 30-18 PRO12 semi-final defeat but they had not been good enough to overcome their arch rivals Leinster.
It was another disappointment for Ulster players and fans as they failed to get past a Leinster side who bounced back in tremendous fashion to a 30-6 loss at Kingspan Stadium three weeks previously in a regular league season game.
Kiss said: “I think Leinster were the better side throughout the 80 minutes.
“We thought they would be a different beast tonight from the game at Kingspan two weeks ago.
“They won the crucial 50-50 in the first 20 or 30 minutes that gave them a 13-0 lead.
“As you have seen most of this season the guys were willing to put their hands up and fight their way back in certain situations and going in 13-11 at half-time was a job that was still doable.
“Early in that second half when we did get a bit of momentum we were not just organised enough to create the space we usually do.
“As happens in these types of games the ball goes up the other end of the park and they put another try on.
“That did change the shape of the game a little bit.
“We still did not think it was lost then, but it certainly gave them a bit of momentum in terms of their belief and it made it more difficult for sure.
“Fair play to Leinster, they delivered what we thought they would, and more, we had to be as good as we were last time if not better and I do not think we were.
“That is by my own and the players admission, they were just better than us today.
“In the patches that we did get momentum, we stretched them, we found a bit of space and other parts of our game when we started to find a little bit of a space but we just could not keep it going like we have in the last few weeks.
“That is disappointing. There are a lot of things we have done this year and that we can build upon and be better for it next year.”
In spite of failing to get over the line once again – this was their third semi-final defeat to Leinster as well as having lost two finals – Kiss believes Ulster are on an upward curve.
“I suppose that may be a bit biased. My message is this is not an ending but a beginning and the things we are trying to do and working hard to do I do think we have the type of players the type of appetite and the talent and the industry to actually go where we would like to go with it.
“It is probably weird, but I am already looking forward to the off season and getting my teeth into it from the start.
“It has been a little bit tough to come in a third of the way this season as I did. Guys looking at how I wanted to do things, a bit of change management but I cannot fault the group to a man including the staff who worked hard to make sure we can build something.
“Yes, we fell short for sure, we are disappointed. We did not quite deliver what we would have liked to to today, but I have to take my hat off to what Leinster delivered.
“We were not good enough to hold it back at times.
“We did not get the types of movement in our game that we usually do that would stretch a side. We needed to do more and we did not.”
One thing Kiss says must be a focus is avoiding the mid-season defeats that ultimately meant yesterday’s game was played in Dublin and not Belfast.
“If there’s something we’ll look at, the Munster game was critical for us.
“That understanding that you don’t let things slip away.
“Even a point away to Cardiff would have made a difference. You can tell that home was a comfort for Leinster.”