Stock­dale score adds sparkle to turgid af­fair

The Rugby Paper - - Guinness Pro14 - By EOIN McINTYRE

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.”

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