Allen Clarke: Champions Cup play-off defeat is a 'line in the sand'

Kieran Treadwell of Ulster celebrates their victory
Ulster have beaten Ospreys twice at Kingspan Stadium in the last two months

Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke says their Champions Cup play-off defeat to Ulster is a "line in the sand".

Despite late improvement this season, Ospreys finished fifth in Pro14's Conference A with just nine wins.

The 35-17 defeat at the Kingspan Stadium means they missed out on the seventh and final Champions Cup place, capping off a disappointing campaign.

"It's been a tough season but 2018-19 is a real place to go in terms of starting the season well," said Clarke.

"It's about getting our building blocks in place during the summer to build some momentum instead of chasing things in the back end of the season.

"This is a line in the sand for us in terms of where we have been this season and the ambition of the club."

However the Ospreys coach, who took over following Steve Tandy's departure in January, remained realistic about the region's chances next season.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Clarke.

"We have new players and coaches coming in so there is a lot of positivity, but we know we have work to do, we are realistic in that regard.

"Maybe a year where we're not trying to fight on two fronts against the competition of the Champions Cup is what we need.

"We can focus on the domestic league, qualify for the Champions Cup the following year properly as opposed to trying to get through the back door."

'Highly frustrating and disappointing'

Ospreys players are dejected after being defeated
Ulster had held a slim one-point lead at half-time before pulling away in the second half

It was not the fond farewell the Ospreys were hoping to give outgoing quartet Dan Biggar, Ashley Beck, Jeff Hassler and Dmitri Arhip.

Sunday's loss means next season will be just the second in 15 years the Ospreys have not featured in Europe's top club competition.

"It's highly frustrating and disappointing for those players leaving and for the fans," said Allen.

"The second half summed our season, inaccuracies, ill-discipline and an inability to turn possession into points.

"It's not the time for recrimination but deep reflection in terms of our inaccuracies.

"We feel that we handed momentum to Ulster and as a result we hurt ourselves badly but that's the learning, and the key in professional sport is learning quickly."