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Coach Neil Doak's delight after opening night victory

By Jonathan Bradley

Neil Doak was understandably thrilled by his team's performance in last night's PRO12 opener after they sealed an impressive bonus-point win over the Ospreys.

A late try from Luke Marshall sealed a maximum return and a 28-6 win with Doak remarking: "The boys done well, I thought the first 20 minutes we were outstanding. We maybe didn't get the points on the board but I think it set us up for the rest of the game."

Ulster held the visitors without a try and, with the work of new defence coach Joe Barakat to the fore, Doak was especially pleased that his side were able to keep the opposition out.

"We knew the Ospreys were going to bring physicality and we knew we had to match that," he added. "There was a period, maybe 73-75 minutes, that was superb.

"They had no width and we were able to relieve a little bit.

"For a bonus point win, we're massively happy with that. I thought we were very good."

“At times during pre-season we’d showed glimpses of that but maybe with chopping and changing it didn’t come through.”

The performance of Peter Nelson, starting at fly-half after playing all of his senior Ulster rugby in the back-three, was especially noteworthy with Doak happy to see the Dungannon youngster handle the pressure of the big occasion.

“It’s a credit to Pete,” he said.

“He’s got a great skillset and he showed great composure tonight.

“It was a big crowd, especially against the Ospreys. They’re going to challenge you physically.

“They’re not an easy side to play against.”

Man-of-the-match Stuart McCloskey scored the second try of the game, while also contributing eight points with the boot after being handed goal-kicking duties and Doak went on to praise the work of his inside centre.

“If he had a little bit of luck last year he might have been pushing pretty hard towards maybe a World Cup extended squad.

“Luke (Marshall) and him were both pretty solid in midfield, they helped Pete out.

“You can’t ask for a better performance than that.”

On the win, McCloskey added: “Always happy to get a score but happier to get the bonus point and hold the other team without a try.

“We’ve (himself and Luke Marshall) wanted to play together for a while, I think we’ve been talking about it for about a year.

“So he got a try as well and I think we went well together.

“I didn’t think they got much of an opportunity to attack and we gelled well together.”

While not expecting to take on too much kicking throughout the rest of his career, McCloskey was also pleased with his work off the tee.

“I was only told about 30 minutes before kick-off because Pete had a bit of groin flare up.

“I’d practised a bit during the week to make sure. I was a bit nervous but I got over it

“I prefer the ones from the touchline because there’s less pressure.

“It’s always good to show I can kick but I don’t think I’ll be doing it too often.”

Belfast Telegraph


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