Jacob Stockdale believes the criticism of him by legendary fellow Irishman Brian O’Driscoll was justified after the Ulster player’s botched try-scoring attempt cost his province a Champions Cup quarter-final win over defending champions Leinster.
Ulster were beaten 21-18 in the knockout game in Dublin, but they had a chance to take control of the match when the winger raced through a pile of tackles when they were two points ahead.
However, carrying the ball one-handed instead of diving with both hands on the ball, he failed to ground it properly over the try line and the score was chalked off by referee Romain Poite following a TMO review.
O’Driscoll, who was commentating on the match for BT Sport, branded the error as “unforgivable” and Stockdale, who was rolled out to do Ulster media this week ahead of their PRO14 match against Edinburgh on Friday agreed.
“To be honest it doesn’t really bother me. Brian was an incredibly good player and he is a legend in the game and you know what, it probably is somewhat unforgivable to have a mistake like that happen in a game.
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I’ve had some incredible highs with Ulster rugby, but unfortunately yesterday was a low for me. Sport can be cruel and sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way. To the Ulster fans I just want to say I am sorry, I let you down, the support we had yesterday was truly amazing and you deserve to be looking froward to a European semi final.
“I think his punditry was very fair. You’re never going to agree 100 per cent with what somebody says about you but what he said was pretty fair,” said Stockdale, who apologised after the game to Ulster fans on his Instagram account
At the time of the incident O’Driscoll said: “It was brilliantly manufactured by Ulster and again he’d a fair bit of work to do but this unfortunately for Jacob Stockdale is unforgivable.
”When you find yourself over the whitewash, yes there’s a player dragging out of him looking to get a challenge in, but you’ve got to dive. You’ve got to guarantee the ball goes down.
“There’s a risk, and obviously the one that we’ve just seen, of knocking the ball on or losing it in contact. That does not happen, or at least tends to happen far less frequently, when you dive.”
"This, unfortunately for Jacob Stockdale, is unforgivable!"
A cruel, cruel blow for Ulster. pic.twitter.com/851lr4WwkM
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 30, 2019
The failure to score hit Stockdale hard. “It was obviously an incredibly tough couple of days for me after that game,” he revealed. “I made a mistake, I made a pretty big mistake. I’ll probably play it over in my head thousands and thousands of times.
“I know everyone has said to me that it’s not true, but I feel it cost us a semi-final place. The amount of people that came down to watch us and the amount of people who paid money to come and watch us, for them not to come away celebrating a victory because I dropped the ball over the line, I just felt that I had to apologise and I had to accept it was my fault and I suppose it was a way of moving on, to say ‘look, I’m sorry and it’ll never happen again’.”
“The one thing that made it easier was the support I got,” he added. “That was the incredibly overwhelming thing and that gave me great respect for our fans. They were so kind of forgiving and were just like ‘mate, don’t worry about it’. That was really touching.”
"We've all been dealt some bad cards in rugby, but it's how you bounce back."
"He's going to be a top class player for many years to come and he won't make that mistake again."
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 2, 2019
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