Stockdale score adds sparkle to turgid affair
OSPREYS coach Allen Clarke had no complains after his side kept within three points of Ulster until the late try from Jacob Stockdale wrapped up victory for the home side.
A John Cooney penalty was the only other score in a turgid affair at the Belfast venue, which was more notable for the protests beforehand than the action on the field.
A couple of hundred protestors appeared outside the venue calling for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to be axed from the province following their recent court appearances, and yesterday morning their departure was confirmed.
The win is a big boost to Ulster though, who can seal a Champions Cup play-off spot with victory over Glasgow next weekend, while Ospreys’ losing bonus secured their place in that play-off.
“It was a tremendous defensive performance from us tonight,” said Clarke. “We showed a lot of valour and character but we weren’t good enough with the ball.
“We know what we are about, we are in the playoff so we may end up back here and that in itself will be a challenge. We’ll have to be a lot better.”
Cooney gave Ulster a seventh minute lead from the tee, but what followed was 73 minutes of stout defence and errors halting any scoring opportunities.
After 30 minutes Kieron Fonotia had a try disallowed by the TMO due to Alun Wyn Jones’ high tackle earlier in the move, while Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey both came close for Ulster as they led 3-0 at the break.
A yellow card for Jeff Hassler arrived after 58 minutes when he found himself on the wrong side of the ruck, and 12 minutes from time Nick Timoney had his try disallowed after a knock-on.
But with Ospreys chasing the winner, Stockdale pounced on a loose Dan Biggar pass to streak clear from halfway, a try that added some brightness to an otherwise forgettable clash.
“Sometimes you just have a game where you want to forget it and move on and that was tonight,” said Ulster coach Jonno Gibbes.
“A lot of effort but not a lot of accuracy. It was looking like it was going to be 3-0 but Jacob got a lucky bounce of the ball.”