Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac admitted his team’s Heineken Champions Cup chances had been “hurt” by Ulster following a 25-24 home defeat.
The Scarlets – European semi-finalists last season – are facing an early exit following a third successive Pool Four loss.
Two Steff Evans tries and a late Dan Davis touchdown – plus nine points from the boots of Rhys Patchell and Dan Jones – kept them in contention, but Ulster ultimately prevailed in bonus-point fashion.
“Our defensive inaccuracy in the first half, in particular, and with the try they scored from 60 metres, we fell off some basic one on one tackles, which is unacceptable at this level,” Pivac said.
“They played very well, but we weren’t that accurate defensively on a couple of occasions, and we paid for it. Similarly, on attack, we weren’t clinical enough.
“For us, it is about improving on that performance and keep building and making sure that we get our accuracy back into our game and put teams away when we make these breaks.
“We have got three more games in this competition, starting next week (against Ulster in Belfast), and we want to turn tonight’s result around.
“They hurt us at home tonight and hurt our chances in this competition, so I guess we want to try and repay the debt.
“You can look back and pull games to bits, it’s not going to change the situation we are in. It is frustrating.
“We have got to focus on the positives out of that game and make sure we keep building on our performances, because we have still got a lot to play for this season.”
Ireland star Jacob Stockdale produced another try-scoring performance as Ulster put a huge hole in Scarlets’ European hopes.
Stockdale, whose touchdown helped Ireland beat world champions New Zealand last month, struck in the first half at Parc y Scarlets, while his fellow wing Henry Speight, centre Will Addison and number eight Marcell Coetzee also scored, with scrum-half John Cooney kicking a penalty and conversion.
It left Ulster level on points with Pool Four pace-setters Racing 92 ahead of next Friday’s Scarlets return fixture.
Ulster backs coach and former Scarlets and Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel said: “We had prepared well, and we realised it was a massive game for us.
“The Scarlets have a fantastic home record, so it was a huge challenge for us.
“But we couldn’t have asked for more. We have got some good players in our squad, and they all stood up tonight.
“In this period in Europe, the job is sort of half done. We are delighted with the win, but we know there is going to be a backlash at our place next week.
“We are a work in progress. We are delighted with the win, and our aim is to get better week on week.”
In the other game last night, Edinburgh secured a 31-13 win over Leicester at Murrayfield.
Wales flanker Ellis Jenkins will require surgery after being hurt during the dying seconds of last Saturday’s victory over South Africa.
Jenkins’ regional team Cardiff Blues confirmed that he suffered “a significant knee injury” as Wales beat the Springboks 20-11 in Cardiff in the final autumn international.
In a statement, the Blues said: “Cardiff Blues can confirm Ellis Jenkins sustained a significant knee injury during Wales’ autumn victory over South Africa, which will require surgical intervention.
“Further specialist reviews are needed to establish an accurate prognosis following surgery.
“Cardiff Blues and WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) have and will continue to work closely to manage Ellis’s care optimally. No further comments will be made at this stage.”
No timescale has so far been put on the 25-year-old’s recovery, but it would appear that Jenkins is facing a lengthy lay-off.
Such an absence would potentially rule him out of the Six Nations and possibly the rest of this season, although it is just under nine months until Wales’ opening World Cup warm-up game against England, while their first World Cup fixture is against Georgia on September 23.
Jenkins produced an outstanding display against South Africa as Wales completed their first autumn Tests clean sweep after also beating Scotland, Australia and Tonga.
Jenkins, who has won 11 caps and skippered Wales to victory over the Springboks earlier this year, received a late call-up off the bench to start after Dan Lydiate withdrew through injury.
Bryan Habana believes Rassie Erasmus has brought “joy and pride” back to the South African badge after an impressive 2018.
The Springboks have a spring in their step this year, having won seven of Erasmus’ 14 games in charge since taking the reins from Allister Coetzee in March.
Erasmus’ tally of victories is only four behind Coetzee’s total of 11 from an ultimately miserable 22 months in charge that dragged South Africa to its knees – the lowlight a record 57-0 defeat to the All Blacks in September 2017.
However, a day shy of exactly a year on from that dark day, the world champions were toppled 36-34 in their own back yard during the Rugby Championship.
Full-back Willie le Roux said following the 20-11 defeat to Wales in Cardiff last weekend that brought the curtain down on his first year in charge that the fear factor had returned to South Africa.
“There was a stage where people did not fear the Springboks anymore, or the badge. We are getting that back,” said Le Roux.
But Boks legend Habana feels it is joy that has returned more than anything else.
“There’s definitely been progression post 2016, 2017,” Habana told Sport360 at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday where he is acting as an ambassador for HSBC.
“They are by no means the finished product and I think Rassie and Siya (Kolisi, South Africa captain) will know that. But I think there’s a little bit more hope installed. They way they’ve been playing, the win in Wellington against New Zealand, was unbelievable.”
Habana, 35, is his nation’s record tryscorer with 67 in 124 Tests (second behind Victor Matfield’s 127 caps) – his haul of tries is second only to Japan’s Daisuke Ohata (69) in international rugby.
South Africa’s 2018 has instilled confidence back in the famous green jersey and that will fill the players and a nation with confidence going into a World Cup year.
And even though the Boks face the world champion All Blacks in their pool in Japan in 2019, and a likely quarter-final showdown with No2 ranked team Ireland, Habana believes that will act as a driving force for Erasmus and Co.
Habana added: “There’s a lot more joy and pride in being a Springboks supporter and we know we’re going to play New Zealand in the World Cup pool stages and perhaps a quarter-final against Ireland if it works out like that.
“But to win a World Cup you have to beat the best in the world. It’s a good time to be a Springboks supporter but we know there’s a long way to go. But it’s exciting.”