Jacob Stockdale hails Ulster support following his 'big mistake' in Leinster clash
AS defeat to Leinster signalled the end of Ulster's European campaign last month, Jacob Stockdale cut the loneliest figure in the Aviva Stadium.
While there were any number of turning points in a memorable quarter-final that hung in the balance until the bitter end, it had been the 23-year-old's fumbling of the ball when already across the try-line that dominated the post-match discourse.
Ulster were winning by two points when Stockdale burst through a host of tackles before failing with the hard work already behind him and he admitted yesterday that he'll always feel a try at that moment would have sent his side into the last four.
"It was obviously an incredibly tough couple of days for me after that game," said Stockdale, who will be hoping to get back among the tries when his side take on Edinburgh in Murrayfield tomorrow in a crucial PRO14 game (7.35pm kick-off). "I made a mistake, I made a pretty big mistake. I'll probably play it over in my head thousands and thousands of times.
Apologise "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."
In the immediate aftermath, the wing - who in the exact same corner a little over four months prior had delivered the score to beat the All Blacks in Dublin for a first time - asked skipper Rory Best if he could address the side to apologise once they had retreated to the relative privacy of the Aviva Stadium's away changing room. The response was reportedly a rousing one as team-mates rallied round to absolve him of blame.
"The one thing that made it easier was the support I got," he said. "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, really touching."
By and large, the Kingspan fanbase seemed to be rallying around their favourite son due to the TV coverage of the game, during which Brian O'Driscoll branded the error as "unforgivable".
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"To be honest, it doesn't really bother me," he said. "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. I think his punditry was very fair."