“We were jogging into place, Leinster were sprinting into place.”
Ulster head coach Jono Gibbs says the manner of the recent Pro14 defeat to Leinster sparked his side into life against La Rochelle.
The 1999 Heineken Cup winners capitulated to the Blues in Dublin last weekend, shipping six tries in a 38-7 loss.
If there was to be any redemption from such an abject showing, it had to visible today and it was.
Les Kiss’s men claimed a 20-13 win over the Top 14 side and sit on top of Pool 1.
A bonus-point win away to Wasps next week would guarantee first place and a quarter-final but anything less and the French side would be likely pool winners, meaning Ulster would be reliant on other results to go their way.
Delighted with the reaction against the French, Gibbes told RTÉ Sport: “There were a lot of things that we were second best against Leinster. There were a lot of things that were just off the ball efforts.
“It was an invested performance from our players, they decided they were going to be up for it. There was a bit of resolve, there was a bit of passion that probably Leinster helped bring out in us.
“We were jogging into place, Leinster were sprinting into place. That was a bit confronting, the images of that match for the guys but I thought we responded well and got reward for our effort.
“We worked incredibly hard, they were a good team, they put a lot of pressure on us but not waiting for it to happen, just going out and making things happen and chasing things.”
The only downside was the failure to pick up a bonus point and the margin of victory, one that sees La Rochelle return home with a point that could prove crucial.
“Absolutely [we would have taken this position before the competition started],” added the New Zealander.
“It’s great to be well and truly alive and going to Wasps with destiny in our own hands and something really tangible to play with.
“To be able to get a win in Europe in round five, to be able to win four from five, that’s the main thing. We’ll certainly take the four points.”
Listen to live and exclusive radio commentary of Racing v Munster (Sunday 3.15pm) on RTÉ Radio 1.