Leinster head coach Leo Cullen says his side feel "pretty sick" about the nature of their 27-26 defeat to the Bulls in the semi-final of the United Rugby Championship.

The better team won at the RDS, and Cullen wouldn't argue with it.

Their season ends without a trophy for the first time since 2017, and for some, like captain James Ryan, the first time in his career.

Losing a URC play-off game is an unfamiliar feeling for Leinster, and Cullen admits that it hurts,

"It is pretty sick in there," he said of the feeling in the Leinster changing room after their 27-26 defeat to the Bulls at the RDS.

It was a different type of defeat to the Champions Cup final, on that occasion they were clinging on to victory before it was snatched at the death, but tonight they spent much of the game on the back foot.

Having led early through a Dan Sheehan try, they were hit for two quick first half scores at the end of the first quarter, and were chasing the game from there

They had the chances though; a sustained period of pressure early in the second half, as well as two blown line-outs close to the Bulls line before the hour mark.

"We just weren't really accurate enough when we were chasing the game," he added.

"We had plenty of opportunities, created plenty of opportunities but, you know, when you come to semi-finals against top end teams, you need all your players sort of in an eight, nine, 10/10 in terms of how they play the game.

"Unfortunately for us some of us, some of ours were just not 100 per cent.

"That's what it comes down to, it's execution in the big moments in the big game.

"Across the board, we just weren't quite there today. We talked about the potential for that.

"Complacency is probably the wrong word, but it takes a little bit of the edge off when you have a big win, making sure you try reset to go again. Having said that we did start the game ok, but we give away some pretty important turnovers which allows the Bulls build a lead.

"When it comes to these high stakes pressure games, particularly when the conditions deteriorate a little bit as well, it became harder to chase the game. Unfortunately, we weren't accurate enough over the course of 80 minutes."

The game was a stark contrast to last week's demolition of Glasgow, a 76-14 defeat that provided less competitive opposition than a training session would have.

And Cullen admitted there were times in tonight's defeat where he feared the quarter-final win may have softened them up.

"You always have that in the back of your mind. There were certain things in that game [Glasgow] that came a little bit easy to us," he said.

"As I said, we started the game ok today, but we lose our way when we play. That's the great debate about how the game is refereed, and for us as coaches, how do we set up the team? Sometimes you get in trouble playing too much.

"It's great when you get into the flow like we had last week, but if you're not quite in the flow, and the other team are being aggressive... we get stripped a couple of times in contact, lose the ball on the ground.

"The Bulls hooker came up with three or four turnovers, and those penalties are huge in the big games because against the better teams, the big powerful teams, once they get you down inside the 22 they're good in terms of that squeezing, keeping the ball and they're well organised, and they had that bit of a lead."

For plenty of their squad, the semi-final defeat brings just a short break before a tour to New Zealand later this month, but for Cullen and his coaching team, the summer debrief begins immediately, as they come to grips with how their season fell apart in the space of 13 days.

"It’s unbelievably disappointing and it’s hard to verbalise because as I said there’s so much work that’s gone in to get us to this point, but you need to be able to deliver on the big days and unfortunately for us we weren’t good enough on the day.

"I don’t think we were quite at our best today, and that self-reflection needs to take place by everybody from an individual point of view but then we need to do that collectively as well.

"But yeah, unfortunately, we’ll be watching the final this year. We’ve been involved in finals in the last number of years. We’d love to be there again. It’s bitterly disappointing for our players who are coming to the end of their Leinster careers as well, whether they’re retiring or moving on to new challenges.

"We all want to give everyone the perfect send off but unfortunately we’re not going to have the perfect send off this year."