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Stockdale shows thirst for tries with clinical late finish

The Ulster wing appeared to have an easy pass option, but trusted his speed to sustain his remarkable try-per-Test ratio.

Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube

THERE WAS MORE than a touch of the predator about Jacob Stockdale’s second try against Italy.

Not just his pounce on a tired decision from Tomasso Castello to pass, followed immediately by a smart step around Tomasso Benvenuti, but as he powered across halfway, he sizes up the last defender Jayden Hayward.

Watching it unfold from the high stands on Lansdowne Road, it seemed tailor made for Stockdale to fix the last defender in order to serve up an assist for Keith Earls.

Instead, the prolific Ulster wing appeared to show a glorious touch of selfishness that is common in clinical finishers in all sports. He cut inside to run directly at Hayward, but only to open up enough space to allow him cut back for the curner and burn him for pace.

Jacob Stockdale gets past Jayden Hayward on his way to scoring his sides eight try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s possible that first impressions are misleading though. Showered and changed with his game-face off, Stockdale’s modesty is in place to insist he wasn’t aware of Earls eating up the turf to provide the supporting line.

“To be honest, I didn’t realise he was there until the replay.

I was knackered and just gunning it as hard as I could to the line. So, no. He said he was happy enough for me to take it on anyway because he was knackered as well.”

Whether Stockdale chose to chase a try to add to his personal tally out of necessity or sheer self confidence, his powerful execution of the chance only bodes well for Ireland.

The 21-year-old is sustaining a remarkable try-per-Test ratio, failing to dot down only against Japan and France since winning the first of six caps in New Jersey last June. A game where he doesn’t contribute a try is beginning to feel like, if not a rarity, an oddity. So, despite being heavily involved in some of Ireland’s brightest early moments, he admits a touch of frustration at not being among the four first-half try-scorers.

“To a certain extent, I was frustrated I didn’t get a score earlier on, but there were a lot of things that went right for me.

“I was happy with my game and I had a lot of involvements.

“You just have to take the opportunities when they come to you and I felt I did that in the second half.”

He adds:  ”We just put a big onus on putting them under pressure as best we can. We’re looking for turnovers and we’re looking to put them under pressure. When you do that, they make mistakes and throw passes they shouldn’t throw, and we managed to scoop up a couple today which was pretty good.

“We knew we had to be on top of our game to score points against them. Because if you’re sloppy and you let them into the game, they can be a really tough team to break down.

“We were really happy with how we did that in the first half, got four tries going into the break.

“Maybe there was a drop off in the second half which was a bit disappointing for us.”

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Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube

Now in the middle of his third window as an Irish international, Stockdale is feeling the difference between standalone matches and the pressure cooker of the Six Nations. On top of that, he has played international rugby on consecutive weekends for the first time, having been issued a rest in the middle Test on tour in June in Japan and also the visit of Fiji in November.

“I’d say the biggest learning has been how tough it is. The last 10 minutes, my lungs were really starting to go. You don’t understand how difficult it is until you’ve played in it, and that’s something I’ve learned.

“You learn things with every game you play, and there will be things that I take away from this that I have to work on. ”

“We put a big focus on our defence as a team and Andy Farrell puts a real big onus on us as wingers to kind of lead our defensive line.

“It’s something that is a real big part of Joe’s game, and something that I’m trying to make a big part of mine. So there will be a lot of work-ons”

His finishing won’t be among them.

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