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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Excitement builds over Stockdale as Ulster's young star continues flying form

The winger hopes to continue in a similar vain ahead of next month’s Autumn internationals.

IN WHAT HAD become a tight and tense arm-wrestle between two packs, and indeed the referee, Ulster needed a bright spark from somewhere. They had spent the best part of an hour battering away at a black wall without any luck.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates after the game Stockdale was named man of the match for a second week running. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Then, it clicked and it was no surprise the breakthrough moment which sent the northern province on their way to a precious opening night victory arrived via their prodigious young star, Jacob Stockdale.

For the second week running, the 21-year-old winger produced match-winning moments as he continued his flying form with a fifth try in as many matches to help see off Wasps at Kingspan Stadium.

Every so often, a young player comes along and makes you sit up and take notice. Stockdale is doing just that, and more.

His partnership with Charles Piutau is blossoming nicely and the two have developed a hugely exciting understanding, as evidenced again during a strong second half performance by Ulster on Friday night.

Piutau, against his old club, was outstanding and was involved in both Ulster tries, with his surging run standing Christian Wade up, and creating the space in behind Willie le Roux for Stockdale to scamper into the corner and apply a fine one-handed finish. Ulster were up and running.

A few minute’s later, le Roux’s kick-chase was contested by Piutau, with the ball falling loose to Stockdale. From there, he teared down the left wing and combined with the All-Black three times in the one move before throwing an audacious offload inside for Stuart McCloskey to power over from close-range.

“To be honest, most of the time I just run off him and expect him to make a break,” Stockdale said of Piutau.

“I think Charles is a pretty intuitive player. He can create something out of nothing, so it’s always just a matter of being on his shoulder and seeing what happens.”

Between them, Stockdale and Piutau made 28 runs, over 235 metres for their team and a try and two assists. Only Liam Williams (4) made more clean breaks during the opening week than Stockdale and five defenders beaten puts him high on that overall list too.

The Lisburn native, capped by Joe Schmidt during the summer tour of USA and Japan, has now scored 14 tries in just 29 games for the northern province and if you take his international debut score against USA in June into consideration, he has scored six tries in his last seven games.

And Stockdale admits going on that tour during the summer certainly helped fast-track his development.

“It was massive,” he continued. ”Just to be in that kind of atmosphere that’s a level above Ulster. To be able to learn from fantastic players is really exciting. To play an international is a dream come true.”

Ulster players celebrate as Jacob Stockdale scores a try Stockdale goes over in the corner for Ulster's first try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

On the potential of adding further to his international honours next month, the winger said he is remaining grounded and focused on Ulster but is hopeful of carrying that form on.

“We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go but, yeah, I’m hopeful,” Stockdale said of being involved in Schmidt’s squad for the November internationals.

“I’ve just got to keep performing and working hard for Ulster.”

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Ryan Bailey

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