Jim Mallinder declared himself ‘hugely disappointed’ after seeing Saints slump to defeat against Ulster.
Mallinder’s men went down 25-6 to the Irish side, who clinched their 13th win in as many games this season.
And the away side also jetted back to Belfast with a try bonus point under their belts after Dan Tuohy’s score a minute before the end at Franklin’s Gardens.
For Mallinder and his Saints squad it’s back to the drawing board as they rebuild for the return clash next weekend.
“(I’m) hugely disappointed,” said the Northampton boss. “It was a big night for us.
“Both sides had players back from injury and international games and they gelled better than we did.
“We can’t complain in terms of that because it was the same for both sides. What we can do is look at our performance and they were intensive and physical.
“Defensively they were very, very good. They were holding us up with two-men tackles and we were having to commit huge numbers to win the ball.
“It meant we were struggling to put together any serious attacking threats and it’s something we’ll need to get right in eight days’ time.”
Saints are now eight points adrift of Ulster at the top of pool four after their second defeat in three games in the competition.
But Mallinder still sees life in his side’s chances of progressing and he knows they will have to improve at Ravenhill next weekend.
He said: “If you look at the table, Ulster are clear favourites to go through. You always want to win your home games in the Heineken Cup.
“We’ve got to make sure we get something out of next week. There’s still a lot to be played for in the season and what a fantastic challenge.
“I thought the Ulster crowd were olutstanding, they really get behind their team, they’re very noisy and we know that will be even more next week.
“It’s a challenge we’ve got to front up to and we need to front up because we’ve got lots to play for.”