The New Zealander described the afternoon as the one of the most frustrating of his tenure as Carnegie failed to produce anything like the sort of form that had delivered a run of ten wins in their previous dozen games.
Handling errors and inconsistency in all facets of the game cost Carnegie as the visitors racked up a bonus point win with the last move of the game to claim their first triumph at Emerald Headingley and move up to fourth place in the Championship table.
“In the last few weeks our poor periods of the game have been okay and the better periods have been very good,” said Stirling. “[Yesterday] our good was okay and our poor was pretty poor.
“We didn’t take opportunities and we kept putting ourselves under pressure in a lot of areas.”
The visitors, winless in their previous three matches, scored within four minutes of kick-off courtesy of lively winger Leroy van Dam and, aside from glimmers of invention from the back line and a workmanlike display at the set-piece, that set the tone in a performance littered with what Stirling himself described as avoidable errors, both in defence and attack.
“There were some poor decisions and indiscipline, we gave away two penalties early,” Stirling said.
“Right from the start we missed our kick-off and lost field position and it cost us.
“We struggled. We had a good portion of field position in the second half and failed to get any points, we made some good areas, but Jersey hung in there tight and thoroughly deserved the win.”
The best of Carnegie’s display came in an open first half.
A thunderous catch and drive on 20 minutes saw Dan Temm cross over only for it to be cancelled out by a combination of lacklustre defence and a missed obstruction by referee Matthew O’Grady, allowing Jersey’s James Newey to score the first of his two tries for the visitors six minutes later.
The number of spectators at Emerald Headingley seems to be building as quickly as the stadium itself and they were not shy in making their opinions towards the officals known on a day O’Grady may want to forget.
Stirling sympathised with the crowd and said: “I thought at times our set piece was going to get on top, but the way the game was officiated at times didn’t allow us to make way in that area and that added to the frustration.
“We were definitely capable of winning this match, but it’s about what you do on the day.
“We were our own worst enemies. Under pressure we were found wanting.”
Matt Smith was Carnegie’s other scorer on a day in which Jacob Umaga’s boot did not fire and the Reds, seemingly set up with a point to prove after a difficult few weeks, were afforded control of a one-sided second half.
Carnegie will hope to shake off the disappointment as they head into Sunday’s Championship Cup semi-final against table-topping London Irish, a match that signals the start of a testing run of fixtures.
There will be cause for concern after captain Richard Mayhew failed a head injury assessment, while best performer on the day Fa’atiga Lemalu battled through a nasty split in his hand and will receive treatment.
It is with a depleted squad that Carnegie will attempt to get back to winning ways.
“It’s a tough next four weeks,” Stirling admitted, “We’ve had Jersey at home, Irish away, Bedford away and then Irish at home.
“Those four games in a row is going to test us, but it’s a test we’re looking forward to.
“These guys don’t want anything sugar-coated. They know, their heads will be down and it’s up to us as coaching staff to pick them back up.
“Ultimately it is a game of rugby and we just didn’t play well enough.
“We got what we deserved and we need to do it all again next week to put things right.”
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder; Watkins (Bainbridge, 71), Lucock, Umaga, Niko; Te Rure, Bruzulier (Wolstenholme, 69); Mayhew N (Hill, 66), Buckle (Donnellan, 64), Foster (Nixon, 69); Lemalu, Smith, Lewis, Mayhew R (c) (Kiri Kiri, 50), Temm. Unused replacement: Hill.
Jersey Reds: Worrall; Mark (Penberthy, 79), Newey, Best, Van Dam; Herron, Homer; Godfrey (Morley, 64), Maddison (McFarlane, 71), Ata’lifo (Rodman, 64); Sexton (c), McKern; Bartle, Hatherell, Venter. Unused replacements: Beckett, Upfield, Howley.
Referee: Matthew O’Grady (RFU).