Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin admits their eight remaining games in the RaboDirect PRO12 are all cup finals as the race for the play-off berths heats up.
Friday night’s comprehensive 30-12 defeat of Newpot Gwent-Dragons moved Ulster up to fifth, just two points behind Irish rivals Munster who have a game in hand.
With Ulster due to face sixth-place Cardiff Blues on Friday night – who also have a game in hand on them – followed by a clash against second-place Ospreys, McLaughlin is adamant is side cannot afford any slip-ups.
And McLaughlin, who will step down as head coach at the end of the season, is hoping that their performance against the Dragons will have blown any remaining cobwebs out of the system following a three-week break period.
“I am really looking forward now to the rest of the season and making sure the team do Ulster proud and I am confident that we can do well in this competition,” he said.
“It was obvious that we were a little bit raw at times after a three-week break, our accuracy probably wasn’t there, but you can’t fault them for their intensity and effort.
“We were a little bit soft in the tackle at times but again it has been three weeks so it is a matter now of building towards Cardiff next week and it is important that we go there and we fight to get a quality result there as well.
“The RaboDirect PRO12 is a competition that we want to do well in, we want to try and, at least, get to where we got last year.
“Every game for us in the RaboDirect PRO12 now is a cup game and that was no different there tonight.
“We have got to go to Cardiff next week and do exactly the same thing and then Ospreys the week after here, Cardiff the week after here and then we get a little bit of a break again.”