There is really no time to wonder on what might have been and yet the impact of last Saturday night will linger a while yet.
nd so, Europe has gone for another year and all that remains on the agenda is the URC where there are three regulation games left before we reach the play-offs.
Realistically, of course, the league is the one where Ulster ought to be pushing all the way in the chase for silverware and yet, the sense of deflation at last Saturday’s 50-49 aggregate loss to Toulouse, over the course of the 160 minutes played between the two, will be fiendishly difficult to shake off.
For all the rhetoric about having to move on and get swiftly down to business for the visit of Munster on Friday night, this wafer-thin loss to the European champions will undoubtedly have scarred the squad.
Never mind the uncomfortable reality that Munster have made it through to Europe’s last eight and, more significantly, that had Ulster managed to get the better of Toulouse then Johann van Graan’s side would have had to return to Ravenhill with a Champions Cup semi-final place awaiting the victors.
That’s all gone now, wrecked by mere moments of Toulouse’s individual brilliance
Ulster will just have to get over it but that will be a weighty burden after having won the first leg in Toulouse and then also triumphed away at Clermont and Northampton in a group stage where Dan McFarland’s team managed to win all four games.
It’s the URC or bust now. With just four points separating second-placed Ulster from the Sharks, who are sixth and provide the province with their final regulation season game at Ravenhill on May 20, there really is no wriggle room if McFarland is to secure the preferred top two finish ahead of the league’s play-off stages.
That is why it is so essential that Ulster rapidly regroup and lift themselves for the task ahead, starting on Friday night against a Munster side who are no means secure in fourth on the URC log and can still strike out for a top two finish.
This week will be about the collective. Just how strong a side McFarland opts for remains to be seen and it’s the same really for Munster too, especially as they have a European quarter-final to plan for, albeit at the Aviva thanks to that Ed Sheeran gig.
In the wreckage of last weekend, Iain Henderson put his own slant on how the squad will set about recovering and pointed out that there will be clarity provided from the less experienced members of the side.
“A lot of the leaders in our squad now are under the age of 23 or 24, and that’s so good for the other players in the squad,” said the Ulster skipper.
And addressing the process of recovery, he added: “I think everyone is different.
“Some guys will forget about it and some will bounce in at the start of the week all go, Some guys will have gone out for beers to get over it, some will have gone back home to sit down to look at the game.
“Similar to most people getting up for games, people use disappointment to get up for games too.
“There’s no right or wrong way. Whichever way our team-mates decide to get over it, be as supportive as possible.”
The process will become a collective recovery with the emphasis always on moving on.
As Henderson stated: “Hopefully we’ve got a few games left in our season so hopefully we can put things back into motion.”
Let the process begin.