Ulster’s head coach saw his side suffer an untimely loss of form against one of the struggling teams of this season’s Rabo Direct Pro12 on the eve of their European quarter-final. Trailing 22-5 at half-time against Cardiff Blues, Ulster at least recovered in the second-half and came within a kick and a disallowed try of completing their comeback but Anscombe is aware they cannot afford a repeat performance at Ravenhill this weekend. While Cardiff were dogged and passionate, they had none of the brute force Saracens will provide.
“Right now it feels like the glass is half empty rather than half full. That was a good team we had out there and we should be better than giving away points like that,” said Anscombe.
When Darren Cave breezed through inside three minutes and Tommy Bowe almost set up a second moments later, Ulster could be forgiven for expecting an easier ride.
The biggest positive for Ulster was a clean bill of health from the trip to the Welsh capital. Stephen Ferris was given 45 minutes while captain Johann Muller was hauled off early to protect his sore calf, and that enabled Iain Henderson to get some game-time. The only thing bruised, quipped Anscombe, was their pride. Seven penalties from Cardiff fly-half Gareth Davies told its own story and Dan Tuohy was binned. Paddy Jackson responded with six second-half penalties but Andrew Trimble knocked on,
Scorers for Cardiff: Try – R Copeland. Con – G Davies. Pens – G Davies 7.
Scorers for Ulster: Try – D Cave. Pens – P Jackson 6
CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish; A Cuthbert, C Allen, I Tuifua (G Evans, 75), C Czekaj; G Davies, L Jones (L Williams, 71); G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey (M Rees, 57), T Filise, L Reed (J Down, 70), F Paulo, M Cook (E Jenkins, 75), R Copeland, J Navidi.
ULSTER: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, A Trimble; P Jackson, M Heaney (P Marshall, 57); T Court (A Warwick, 67), R Herring (N Annett, 70), J Afoa, J Muller (capt, I Henderson, 57), D Tuohy, S Ferris (R Diack, H-T), N Williams, C Henry.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).