Stock­dale wings in to give Ul­ster Euro boost

The Rugby Paper - - Guinness Pro14 - ■ By BILL KIELY

CON­NACHT’S hopes of a first win in Belfast since 1960 were dashed when Ja­cob Stock­dale got through for the key score at Kingspan Sta­dium.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, Ir­ish coach Joe Schmidt was watch­ing on as the re­cently capped winger scored one of the tries of the sea­son in the sec­ond half to se­cure a timely win ahead of their open­ing Cham­pi­ons Cup game against Wasps.

The 21-year-old will be in con­tention for an Ire­land call-up once again af­ter a suc­cess­ful sum­mer tour where he scored against USA.

Stock­dale was just thrilled to see his side over the line in the first PRO14 in­ter­provin­cial derby of the sea­son af­ter their shock loss away to Ze­bre the pre­vi­ous week.

He said: “In­ter-pros are al­ways tough and it was a phe­nom­e­nal sec­ond-half from the boys, our de­fence was class with ev­ery­one fly­ing off the line and smash­ing them.

“We had to tidy up a few things in the sec­ond­half and to get the up­per hand we had to up the in­ten­sity and work hard.”

Con­nacht, now with five losses in the six games since Kieran Keane took charge, will be dis­ap­pointed not to at least have picked up a point.

Tom McCart­ney put Ul­ster on the back foot with his first-half try as Con­nacht led 5-3 at the in­ter­val but the hosts fought back af­ter the break. For­mer Con­nacht scrum-half John Cooney pro­duced an­other su­perb dis­play for Ul­ster.

But there will be a ma­jor step up in class when then wel­come Wasps to Belfast next week­end. Ul­ster strug­gled in Europe last year and fin­ished bot­tom of Pool 5.

They also strug­gled in the league and didn’t reach the play-off places de­spite their bril­liant start to the year when they went five wins from five be­fore Con­nacht de­feated them for the first time since 2011-12.

But there was no up­set on this oc­ca­sion and Con­nacht coach Kieran Keane was bit­terly dis­ap­pointed not to get any­thing from the match.

“We came here to win,” he said. “We didn’t chance our arm an aw­ful lot in that first half but we were ahead and pretty sat­is­fied with how we were do­ing most things.

“We just couldn't get over the line near the end and that was a shame.”

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