Belfast Telegraph

Stockdale to rescue for Ulster

 

By Jonathan Bradley

After a night of drama, on and off the field, Ulster's Guinness PRO14 play-off hopes are still alive and well after Jacob Stockdale scored yet another try to finally see off Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium in a scrappy 8-0 win.

The hosts dominated proceedings but were leading only 3-0 in the final stages before their man-of-the-moment, Ireland Grand Slam hero Stockdale,ran the ball home from distance just when the Welsh side were threatening to steal a draw.

The 8-0 win keeps the pressure on Edinburgh who currently occupy the final play-off spot in Conference B, with their lead over the province down to just four points with both sides having two games remaining.

Edinburgh will likely claw back Ulster's advantage today against an understrength Scarlets side, but unless Benetton can upset Leinster in Dublin, Ulster would be almost guaranteed their spot in a play-off game to ensure Champions Cup rugby next season.

While it wasn't always pretty, head coach Jono Gibbes was thrilled to see his side secure back-to-back wins for the first time since December.

"We did back up the effort, absolutely," said the Kiwi of his side building on beating Edinburgh last time out.

"We backed up the preparation, we backed up the enthusiasm and unfortunately we didn't back up the catching of the last pass or putting the last man away, so the accuracy was severely lacking. But I couldn't really chip the guys for not putting everything into it, unfortunately it was just one of those games where the harder we tried to get the crucial score to give ourselves a bit of space we dug ourselves a deeper hole almost."

With Gibbes departing Ulster at the end of this season, a new coach will be taking the side forward no matter what happens in the season's final weeks.

With interviews under way, it is believed that Australia sevens coach Andrew Friend is leading the way for the post.

Currently guiding the host nation in the Commonwealth Games, Friend is a former coach of the Brumbies, where he worked with ex-Ulster favourite Christian Leali'ifano.

Meanwhile, Glasgow secured a home semi-final ahead of the Guinness PRO14's play-offs with a routine 35-22 win over Connacht.

The Warriors have bossed Conference A in Dave Rennie's first season in charge, and got the win they needed to make sure they would finish top at the end of the season.

They ran in four tries to give themselves breathing space over Munster with two games still to play.

Alex Dunbar and Fraser Brown scored on their returns from injury while Pete Horne kicked 15 points in another good performance at Scotstoun.

Belfast Telegraph

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