Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss said the record loss to Connacht in the Guinness PRO14 would make for a dour Christmas.
Connacht ran in six tries in a superb 44-16 derby win at the Sportsground, Galway on Saturday night against an Ulster side which floundered in most departments.
The westerners' tails were up following their Challenge Cup double over Brive, and Eoghan Masterson, Bundee Aki and Tiernan O'Halloran all touched down to establish a 20-6 half-time lead over their provincial rivals.
John Cooney, who landed two penalties against his former side, could not inspire Ulster who leaked a fourth try to Dillane while Andrew Warwick and Louis Ludik were both in the sin-bin.
Les Kiss' charges did at least get over the whitewash in the final quarter, with Craig Gilroy and replacement Robert Lyttle the scorers, however further tries from Jarrad Butler and Dillane, who rounded off a terrific intercept effort from deep, underlined Connacht's dominance in a history-making win.
Ulster return to the Kingspan Stadium on New Year’s Day for another derby against Munster as the busy festive fixture period continues.
But there nothing festive about the Ulster performance against Connacht, even with a raft of changes in the side which had been Harlequins 52-24 a week previously in Europe.
Coming at it did on the mouth of Christmas, Kiss said:” These things do happen, unfortunately it happened to us on the night before Christmas, it will make it for a dour Christmas for most of us.
“ You get a chance to come back and that is what we have to do. We have to dust ourselves down, we have got our tails between our legs, we take our hat off to Connacht, the way they played is a lesson for us to go out next week (against Munster) and replicate something close to that and we will be in a good place.”
Admitting that it was the worst performance for him at Ulster, Kiss added: “We are disappointed at a number of levels. Yes we have a bit of a battered squad at the moment and some illness and injuries, some rotation, but we still would have expected better from ourselves without a doubt.”
“In saying that I do not want tot ake anything away from what Connachrt delivered tongiht, they got a start and they kept coming. You have to take your hat off to them as well we could not respond in kind.”
Ulster’s defence has been under the spotlight this season. While they may be scoring quite a few themselves, they are also conceding high numbers.
Kiss said: “Look it is something we have been trying to work on without a doubt. It is not something simple we can put our hand on, it is not like we are not good in defence at times, at times teams open us up and we have to work hard on it and fix that up for sure.
“I think today you saw a team that once they got on the front foot and then were maybe not quite ready for that next phase, we just seemed to fail our defensive line at different times.
“It is about getting those first up hits into a good position, dominate that area and give ourselves a chance to launch our defence on beetter terms and we are not getting to that at the moment and that is putting us under a lot of pressure.”
Ulster will hope to have some of their front line players returning for the Munster game, the strength in depth against Connacht was evidently missing with another number of young players making their senior debuts.