Connacht coach Andy Friend admitted he and his charges face a crucial period of self-reflection after Leinster laid waste to the western province in a 54-7 Guinness Pro14 drubbing at the RDS on Saturday evening.
Leinster exploded out of the blocks, racking up a 26-0 lead with just over a quarter of the game gone. A 40-0 half-time lead was a fair reflection of the hosts' superiority, with both sides taking the opportunity to give young players minutes in a second half which was played at a more gentle tempo.
Leo Cullen’s side is cultivating an invincible aura this season, with the derby win extending their winning streak to 15 matches, and the Connacht boss was prepared to acknowledge that the loss had left a mark.
"They've done this to a few other teams, but it hurts when it happens to you"
"We said at the front end of this year that we wanted to test ourselves against the best," Friend told RTÉ Sport.
"We got a pretty harsh lesson there tonight.
"They are the best at the minute, in my view.
"They’ve done this to a few other teams, but it hurts when it happens to you, it definitely does."
Defeat looked an inevitability for Connacht at the RDS prior to kick-off, but Friend felt his team could and should have offered more resistance.
"I thought some of our defence in that first half was way too soft"
"It wasn’t pretty at all," he said.
"They’re a very good side, but they’re a good side if you let them be a good side.
"I thought some of our defence in that first half was way too soft.
"You give them momentum and you don’t challenge for the football - it becomes a very difficult day.
"We made a couple of simple errors early on, kicked away possession and didn’t challenge for possession, and then didn’t get our bodies in front and next thing it’s a try. Then we kick off and we don’t challenge that and then there’s another try.
"I think we had the ball for three minutes in the first half. They had it for 15 minutes.
"That’s a lot of defending for us and if you’re not making those tackles it does make it a very long 40 minutes."
"We've got a bit of soul-searching to do and seven days to try and sort it out"
Injury-ravaged Connacht weren’t helped by lacklustre displays from a number of their more experienced players, but Friend cited encouraging performances from a number of youngsters as the crumbs of comfort to be taken from a traumatic evening.
"Niall Murray, his first start, a Roscommon boy, I thought he did very, very well," Friend enthused.
"Conor Kenny comes on, another Connacht local, and does very well.
"Stevie Kerins, a Sligo boy, comes on and does very, very well.
"The energy of some of those young men was fantastic out there and it gave the other boys a bit of energy.
"But the problem is we don’t need the young academy fellas coming through and doing it, we want everyone doing it.
"We’ve got a bit of soul-searching to do and seven days to try and sort it out."
A daunting fixture awaits Connacht in the Champions Cup next Saturday, with a Toulouse team boasting a 100% record making the journey to Galway.
Bundee Aki and Jack Carty should both return for that encounter, but Conor Fitzgerald looks unlikely to play any part after being carted off the field with an ankle injury.
"It didn’t look good," Friend admitted.
"He said he heard a crack, but we’ll wait and see what happens there."