Kiss admits emotional distress as Ulster campaign ends in tatters
Ulster's worst European campaign in nine years came to the most humbling of conclusions against Bordeaux on Saturday with director of rugby Les Kiss admitting that a run of nine defeats in 13 games has everyone feeling the strain, himself above all.
In a clash that meant nothing for either side, Ulster spent the preceding week stressing the need for a morale-boosting win but were overpowered by visitors who many had expected to be uninterested.
"I feel it for all the guys," sighed Kiss. "I am the type of coach that does and I am connected in an emotional way with the team. It is not a nice place to be.
"I feel that weight for sure. But it is what my job is. I think I am speaking collectively, it is tough to be in this space.
"Some of us have been there once or twice, some a few more times, but the real disappointment is knowing there is a lot of good effort going in.
"But when you are in that space you have got to look yourself in the mirror and know what you've got to take ownership and responsibility and make sure you stay strong about where you are going and what you are doing together.
"It is important we recognise the responsibility we have to get ourselves out of this situation. That is what we are going to work hard on."
With some of the hosts' more basic errors being met with jeers, out-half Paddy Jackson admitted it was a wholly unpleasant experience.
"There were a few heckles from the home supporters, which is hard to take," said the Ireland international. "They obviously don't like what they're seeing so you just try and block it out.
"It's frustrating for everyone. There are mistakes and it's not good enough. Mentally we're switching off, individually and as a team."
Jackson was up against his erstwhile Ireland out-half rival Ian Madigan, who will have been pleased with his all-round display and his general kicking.
The Ulster players met for a lengthy huddle on the pitch following the final whistle, with former captain Rory Best addressing his team-mates.
Jackson revealed that the Ireland skipper stressed the need to thank the fans who had stuck out what was arguably their worst showing of the season.
ULSTER - C Piutau; T Bowe (C Gilroy 63), D Cave, S McCloskey, A Trimble (c); P Jackson, D Shanahan (P Marshall 40); A Warwick (C Black 71), R Best, J Simpson (R Lutton 23); R Diack (K Treadwell 46), F van der Merwe (C Ross 54); I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy.
BORDEAUX-BEGLES - G Cros; N Ducuing, J Baptiste Dubié, J Wakacegu, B Connor; I Madigan (S Hickey 59), Y Lesgourgues (J Audy 51); S Kitshoff (S Taofifenua 35), C Maynadier (c) (B Auzqui 61), M Clerc (V Cobilas 54), T Palmer, B Botha (J Edwards 52) ; L Madaule, L Goujon, M Tauleigne (H Chalmers 69).
Ref - M Carley (RFU).