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O'Connor: Ulster should always pack a punch

By Jonathan Bradley

For the second week in succession, Ulster relied on their maul to get things going in Friday's 17-15 win over Dragons and Alan O'Connor believes the province's pack should provide that foothold every time they take the field.

The Dubliner was one of the positives in what was a disjointed victory and was leaned upon heavily with Robbie Diack injured only minutes into the second-half and Franco van der Merwe rested.

Indeed, it was the 23-year-old who, in addition to providing his usual robust play in the loose, was left to call the line-out when the set-piece produced a penalty try that ultimately started Ulster on their way to a comeback win and top of the PRO12 table.

O'Connor, however, was far from satisfied with the outing.

"It was a bit annoying," he reflected. "People falling off tackles, penalties at the maul and things like that, so it was a bit frustrating but thankfully we got the win in the end.

"We said during the week that Dragons like to maul and that's where we wanted to take them on.

"To get the penalty try this week, and the score last week, we want to get a try that way every week. That's our aim.

"Their maul, last week Leinster didn't deal with it at all, but we made sure they didn't get any traction. They just got traction in other places that they shouldn't have."

On his added responsibility come set-piece time in the absence of senior figures in the engine room, O'Connor was keen to downplay his contribution.

"It's an easy job when everyone knows what they're doing," he said. "Even Clive (Ross), he can swap into second-row no problem. In training he'd be in there running against us so everyone knows what they're at."

While the former Leinster sub-academy player provided another strong outing in what has been a season of continued development, there were also some bright moments from Jacob Stockdale on his first start.

The 20-year-old former Wallace High pupil was making his first appearance at Kingspan Stadium and provided an occasional spark with ball in hand, a turnover on the deck and a key tackle on Dragons captain Rynard Landman that may well have saved a try.

After a more mixed second-half, Les Kiss says the Irish Under-20 international will learn from the aspects of his game that did not go according to plan.

"There were some really good touches but there are some lessons about what you need at this level, that concentration for longer periods of the game," Kiss said.

"He carried the ball and fell along and didn't get it back. He dropped a pass on the touchline and missed an easy tackle.

"All these things will be good lessons. I thought in general there were some really nice touches.

"He's just got to stay really focused and concentrate on the basics of the game because you do get more fatigued at this level.

"He'll need to develop that mental strength, but overall, there were some real moments to take forward as a positive."

Dragons ace Carl Meyer was cited yesterday after an incident involving Ulster's Stuart Olding on Friday night.

The clash in the 66th minute of the contest brought a long consultation between referee Nigel Owens and the TMO but no action was taken at the time.

The Welsh region face Connacht on Thursday and could now be without their South African full-back, while Olding is currently a doubt to face Glasgow on Friday.

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