Stuart Olding’s sanctuary switch to Brive following his sacking by the IRFU enjoyed another positive development this week as the former Ulster centre kicked the winning penalty in a top of the table ProD2 clash at Nevers on Thursday night.
Olding’s deal to keep him in Belfast until summer 2019 was torn up last April despite being found not guilty along with Paddy Jackson at a high profile rape trial.
The toxic fall-out from the case, which ended on March 28 last year, forced Olding to take a gamble and move to the French second division to keep alive his career.
That switch, where he is now playing under former Ulster and Ireland second row Jeremy Davidson, has proven a tonic for the midfielder who turned 26 last week.
So quickly did he settle in, he agreed a contract extension in early October that will keep him at the club until summer 2020 and his form since then is helping Brive fight their way to the front in the hectic promotion race to the Top 14.
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It was January when Olding scored his first penalty points in nearly six years. Not since a February 2013 Ulster defeat to Ospreys had the centre scored off the kicking tee, but he stepped forward to kick three penalties in the closing 24 minutes of a win over Biarritz.
That willingness to take on the responsibility as a back-up kicker has continued to serve him well and his 15th successful kick (10 penalties/five conversions) in 19 appearances proved crucial on Thursday night.
Level in the closing moments, Olding held his nerve to land the match-winning points in the 31-28 success that put Davidson’s side on top of the table overnight.
Le résume vidéo du superbe succès à Nevers, c'est par ici : https://t.co/DPigQVK0wM
— CABCLRUGBY (@CABCLRUGBY) March 22, 2019
They have 73 points from their 25 matches, but just three points separate the leading four teams in the promotion race. Oyonnax also have 73 points while Nevers are in third on 71 points and Bayonne fourth on 70. Oyonnax and Bayonne have a game on hand on both Brive and Nevers.
Olding’s on-pitch success in the lower league is a marked contrast to the fortunes of former teammate Jackson in the Top 14. Perpignan, who only rejoined the elite last summer, are set to make a swift return to the ProD2 as they have won just one of their top-flight 19 matches.
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