Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd was disappointed with his side’s second-half performance as they surrendered a 22-14 half-time lead in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Ulster.
Ulster dominated the second half to triumph 35-27 and progress to the semi-finals, having every chance of becoming the first Irish winners of the competition since Leinster in 2013.
Northampton had built up a healthy lead with Tommy Freeman scoring two tries. Alex Mitchell and Ollie Sleightholme each scored one apiece with Piers Francis kicking, instead of Dan Biggar, a penalty and two conversions.
Rob Herring, Jacob Stockdale, John Cooney and Marty Moore replied with tries for Ulster. There was also a penalty try, with Cooney adding four conversions.
Boyd said: “In the first half we were very decent but not quite so in the second half.
“In the first half we caught all the aerial balls and won the breakdown, after the interval it was the reverse so it was game over.
“Dan (Biggar) still has a small injury issue so goal-kicking for him was a problem but hopefully it will resolve itself in the near future.”
Next up for Northampton is a home Gallagher Premiership game against London Irish on Friday evening.
“All games in the Premiership are big games but one of the advantages of going out of Europe is that your side has a rest so we can play two league games now and then have a week off.”
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland hailed his side’s second-half showing.
He said: “We felt a bit sorry for ourselves at half-time as we knew we should have put more points on the board in the first half but we knew at half-time they had to turn up the physicality and our back row were magnificent.
“They are a very strong and dangerous side and we knew they would test us. Their number eight Teimana Harrison was everywhere in that first half-hour and caused us no end of problems.”
Ulster captain Jordy Murphy added: “We are delighted with a win as it’s a really tough place to come as it was a hugely physical game.
“They did everything to disrupt our maul in the first half and against 13 men, we should have put points on the board more quickly but the second half reaction was brilliant and the energy on the pitch was incredible.”
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