John Mulvihill insists his side remain firmly in the hunt for a place in next season's Heineken Champions Cup, despite a 20-11 defeat to Conference A rivals, Ospreys, at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Tries from George North and Scott Williams gave Allen Clarke’s side a victory in Swansea, as Garyn Smith crossed for the visitors’ only try of the game.
Following wins over Dragons and Scarlets, Mulvihill admits it was a frustrating performance as Ospreys move five points ahead of Wales’ Capital Region in the Guinness PRO14 Conference A table.
“In the first 40 minutes, we were down 14 points and gave away too many penalties early on, which gave them a lot of momentum and confidence from there,” said Mulvihill.
“It was really disappointing, especially when you consider the way we’ve played and the way we’ve started games over the last few weeks.
“It was a little bit of a stop-start game and wouldn’t be a great game to watch but I’m sure the Ospreys supporters would be happier than ours were.
“It was a pretty poor game with a lot of kicking and a lot of stop-start, but that’s how derby games play out.
“We had an opportunity at the end to win the game, but there was a forward pass in there.
“It’s not a major one for us in terms of the Conference, because we’ve got them again before the end of the season. They have a pretty tough run, as do we, so we have to make sure we look after ourselves.
“If you concentrate on the table too much, then you’ll miss what’s in front of you, and maybe some of the guys had that in the back of their minds. We let an opportunity slip out there tonight.
“It looked a little bit of a tired performance from both teams, but they got to the right areas of the field and took their opportunities well.
“Last week, we left nothing out on the field against Scarlets but these are professional athletes and we’re professional coaches and we’ve prepared them as well as possible with low-management throughout the week to get a balance.
“I knew it would be close, and we’d have an opportunity to win, but it would’ve been one of the most frustrating wins we’ve ever had, and it ended up probably being one of the most frustrating losses we’ve had this year.
“Matthew Morgan’s performance was outstanding. We picked him because we knew they’d kick a lot and he’d cover the ground. He brought the ball back straight away and that is something he will give you.”
Next up for Mulvihill’s side is a pair of Heineken Champions Cup fixtures, with a trip to face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun followed by the visit of Top 14’s Lyon to the Welsh capital.
The head coach believes the European encounters could give his side a platform to build momentum ahead of a crucial PRO14 clash against Connacht later this month.
“We’ll go to Glasgow next week with a team to win, and they’ll pick their best team because they need five points before playing Saracens the following week.
“They play a really fast style of rugby so for us it might be about keeping the ball off-the-field and slowing it down.
“That will lead us into Lyon and hopefully we can get confidence from those two performances leading into Connacht back in the Guinness PRO14.”