Jacob is a real Ulster cracker
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss was full of admiration for Jacob Stockdale and Charles Piutau after the pair combined for the crucial score in a tight interpro against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium last night.
Having lost for the first time this season against Zebre a week ago, a game that the province sorely needed to win was swung in their favour by the inspired second-half score that proved critical in the 16-8 triumph and took them temporarily back to the top of PRO14 Conference B.
"Jacob has got this uncanny ability at the moment to accelerate through gaps and you saw in this game he could use the deft pass and stay alive again and read the play of Charles," said Kiss.
"It was a brilliant piece of rugby.
"Charles was so smart in how he played with the space and covered the chip he actually forced them to chip, covered it and Jacob worked hard to get back off his wing.
"It was a pretty special sort of try really."
It was a moment that lit up a typically fiercely contest, with Kiss pleased to see his side show some doggedness in defence after events in Italy last time out.
“An interpro challenges you in a different way, there is a lot more at stake,” Kiss said.
“It will always be tough and you have to tough out every minute. We did that up to the last minute of the game.
“A score (from Connacht late on) wouldn’t have changed it but it was nice not to concede.
“We expected a little bit of mess in the game and a bit of stop-start. I think the scrum was interesting the way it was managed and it probably threw both teams off a bit and it became a bit scrappy at times.
“We expected this would be a tough game that may have had not a lot of flow to it.
“It was important to win because Europe is there (next) week and because of where we are in the Conference.
“But for us it was important for us to grow certain parts of the game.
“As a coaching group we feel we saw enough good things again in terms of what we’re trying to do with our game.”
Despite the win, it wasn’t all good news for Ulster who are still waiting for the verdict on Marcell Coetzee’s ongoing knee problems amid fears the man who has been limited to just five appearances since the start of last season requires another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The flanker returned home to South Africa this week to visit the surgeon who carried out his original ACL surgery in 2016.
“It’s a difficult process,” he admitted. “We want to make sure we do everything possible to get in front of this.
“There’s a bit of fluid and pain in there and the original surgeon is going to have a thorough look at it.
“I’m guessing, but I’d be hopeful that we’ll have real, solid news by the end of next week. We need to make sure Marcell has the best opportunity.”
Kiss did add, however, that a need for further surgery had not yet been confirmed.
Elsewhere last night, Zebre, conquerors of Ulster seven days ago, showed yet again they are no longer the whipping boys when they lost by only a point in Edinburgh.
Glasgow also had a tough battle with the Cheetahs before finally edging past the South Africans, while the all-Welsh battle ended in a convincing victory for Cardiff Blues against the Dragons.
Last night: Edinburgh 16 Zebre 15, Cheetahs 26 Glasgow 29, Ulster 16 Connacht 8, Cardiff 43 Dragons 29.
Today: Leinster v Munster (2pm), Treviso v Kings (7pm), Ospreys v Scarlets (7.35pm).