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'It's a mistake that I'll probably play over in my head thousands of times'

Jacob Stockdale has been overwhelmed by the support Ulster fans have shown him.

JACOB STOCKDALE WAS one of the first over to team-mate Luke Marshall when the Ulster centre lost control of the ball in the act of crossing the tryline for what looked like a certain try last weekend against Glasgow.

Stockdale’s wonderful offload had sent Marshall charging in for the score but Glasgow wing Tommy Seymour – a former Ulsterman – got a hand in to nudge the ball free and deny Marshall. 

Stockdale, fresh from his own error over the tryline in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster, put his arm around Marshall and did his best to cheer him up.

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“Lukey was pretty annoyed about himself and I went over and said, ‘Mate, don’t worry – it’s not a quarter-final.’ He didn’t seem to take it too well at first but it happens,” said Stockdale.

“Lukey’s was a bit different in the sense that I don’t think Luke did anything wrong, Tommy Seymour just did incredibly well to poke the ball out as he was going over.”

Stockdale was on media duty yesterday for the first time since his mistake against Leinster, when he made a sensational solo run down the left but lost control of the ball beyond the tryline as he looked to plant it down for what would have been a crucial try.

“It was obviously an incredibly tough couple of days for me after that game,” said Stockdale. “It’s a mistake that I’ll probably play over in my head thousands of times after that.

“It was a really hard one to take but, to be honest, the thing that made it a lot easier was the support I got. 

“It’s one thing I learned from it – how good our fans are. I put up an Instagram post just to say sorry and the comments and support were just incredible and overwhelming. I felt very humbled by that. It’s incredible and just great support.”

Stockdale apologised to his team-mates after that Leinster game, despite being told by captain Rory Best that an apology was not required, and took to Instagram to say sorry to Ulster’s fans too.

The vast majority of the province’s supporters echoed their team’s players in telling him it wasn’t necessary, but Stockdale felt the need to issue the public apology.

Jacob Stockdale dejected after the game Stockdale was devastated by his error in Dublin. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Because I made a mistake and a pretty big mistake that – everyone said to me that it’s not true – but I feel cost us a semi-final place,” said the 23-year-old.

“The amount of people that came down to watch us, paid that amount of money to come down and watch us, for them not to come away celebrating a victory because I dropped the ball over the line, I just felt I had to apologise.

“I had to accept that it was my fault and I suppose it was a way of moving on. It will never happen again.”

Stockdale said he bears no ill feelings towards Brian O’Driscoll for branding his error “unforgivable” on TV and felt the former Ireland centre’s punditry was “pretty fair.”

Although Stockdale believes it’s been easy for everyone to be an expert in questioning his one-handed finish with the benefit of hindsight, he is certain that his next finish will be safer.

“I’ll definitely be diving for my next try, no doubt!” said Stockdale with a laugh. “I’ll be getting the ball down as quick as I can.”

While Ulster left the Aviva Stadium dejected, Stockdale feels he and some of the other young squad members have benefited from their first experience of European knock-out rugby with the province.

Given how tight the Pro14 regular season run-in will be over the next two weekends, Stockdale said “every game is a final now” and that knock-out exposure is therefore even more valuable.

Jacob Stockdale Stockdale is keen for Ulster to finish their season strongly. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Marshall’s non-try was one of the missed opportunities Ulster had in their frustrating 30-7 defeat to Glasgow last weekend, which they have moved on from swiftly as they focus on Friday night’s visit to Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

Currently second in Conference B of the Pro14, two points ahead of Benetton and three clear of Edinburgh, this is another huge game for Ulster.

With a home tie against Leinster to follow the weekend after, Ulster are concentrating on securing a home quarter-final.

“If we go to Edinburgh and we play the best rugby we can play and it’s not enough, then you can accept that,” said Stockdale. The one thing you can’t accept is going over and putting in a sub-par performance.

“To have a home quarter-final here is something we’re all massively ambitious for, to have the atmosphere and that bit of knock-out rugby at home, it’s really exciting to think about.”

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Murray Kinsella

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