Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson has urged his side to bounce back from Euro disappointment in the remaining PRO12 fixtures.
Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson has urged his side to bounce back from European disappointment in the remaining PRO12 fixtures.
Jackson landed several pressure penalties in Ulster's gut-wrenching 17-15 defeat to Saracens in last Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final at Ravenhill, the loss made all the more difficult to stomach after the hosts played for 76 minutes with 14 men due to Jared Payne's red card.
“After hitting the other two penalties I was really confident and was just dying to get another shot but it didn't come and it was heartbreaking really,” Jackson told the Belfast Telegraph of his side's desperate push for a last-gasp victory.
“All we needed was one little break so we could have had a go but fair play to Saracens, they didn't give it to us.”
Payne saw red after an aerial collision with fellow full-back Alex Goode, knocking the Sarries man out cold. Jackson admits that, while Goode was receiving treatment, he and his team-mates never thought referee Jerome Garces would order him off.
“At no point did it really cross my mind that it would be a red card,” said the nine-times capped Irish international,” added Jackson.
“We had a while to talk on the pitch before the decision was made and we were trying to find out what we were going to do for 10 minutes if Jared got a yellow.
“It was a big shock then having to play with 14 men for 76 minutes but, even though we weren't good enough in the end, I think it shows how we've come along and we'll need that character over the next few weeks.”
Indeed, with six of Saturday's squad ruled out through injury – including talismans Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best – and Payne now suspended the Ulstermen must hold strong.
Jackson, though, believes that the missing first-teamers hand opportunities to those on the periphery of the squad to prove themselves.
“There's a great chance now for a few boys to step up and show what they can do over the tail end of the season,” said Jackson.
“We've still got a lot to play for in the PRO12. We've a tough run of games with Connacht, Glasgow, Leinster and Munster so it's a huge finish for us.
“I don't know if I'll ever get over it (the Saracens defeat) really but there's not much else we can do apart from continue on with the Rabo and that starts with needing to put in a good game against Connacht.
“If we can get a win, we can get the season back on track.”