Stockdale & McCloskey earn Ulster win over Wasps

Ulster's Stuart McCloskey tackles Wasps fly-half Jimmy Gopperth

Ulster’s second try-scorer Stuart McCloskey tackles Wasps fly-half Jimmy Gopperth

Two tries in two minutes helped Ulster to a scrappy European Champions Cup win over Wasps at the Kingspan Stadium.

Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey both scored in the left corner as Ulster came from six points behind to make a winning start in Pool One.

Charles Piutau haunted his former club by setting up both tries while two late penalties denied Wasps a bonus point.

On a wet pitch, Wasps had used their scrum dominance to lead 6-3 at the break before Piutau showed his class.

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In a match littered with handling errors and turnovers, Wasps took advantage of their set-piece superiority to open the scoring after just four minutes when Elliot Daly converted a long-range penalty.

The home side were level 11 minutes later when scrum-half John Cooney made amends for an earlier miss with a straight-forward kick in front of the posts.

With Ulster’s scrum struggling, Wasps regained the lead in first-half stoppage time when Jimmy Gopperth slotted a penalty earned by his pack.

Another Gopperth kick pushed the Premiership side into a six-point lead at the start of the second-half.

Ulster sparked into life in the 55th minute as classy New Zealander Piutau teed-up Stockdale for the opening try.

Wasps were opened up less than two minutes later when Piutau and Stockdale combined to put McCloskey over the line.

The visitors’ indiscipline cost them dearly in the final 10 minutes as two late penalties by Christian Lealiifano denied them a losing bonus point.

Playing the conditions

Despite a poor start to the Premiership season – culminating in four consecutive defeats – and having to cope with a five-day turnaround, Wasps settled into the game quickly.

The two-time European champions held the upper hand in the set-piece, which allowed them an early foothold through the boot of Daly.

After watching his first penalty slide to the right of the posts, Cooney made no mistake from in front of the posts after a superb break from Stockdale.

Despite injuries to hooker Tom Cruse and centre Brendan Macken, Wasps went back on the attack and the home side needed to defend doggedly to stop a menacing maul just metres from their line.

Ulster were struggling to cope with their front-row counterparts and Wasps took the lead in first-half stoppage time when their scrum once again forced a penalty, which was converted by Gopperth.


Jacob Stockdale celebrates the opening try with Charles Piutau

Two-try salvo

Former Leinster fly-half Gopperth pushed the visitors into a six-point lead at the start of the second-half as Wasps were rewarded for the first period of sustained possession.

But that score appeared to spark Ulster into life and they responded in similar fashion.

Roared on by the home crowd, the hosts put 16 phases together on their way to within five metres of the line but Lealiifano knocked-on while stretching for the line.

The hosts refused to be denied, however, and they responded with two tries in as many minutes, with Piutau influential for both of them.

The full-back drew the tackle of Christian Wade before releasing Stockdale and the winger finished well in the left corner.

From the restart, Piutau pounced on a loose ball and drove into the Wasps 22 before passing to Stockdale.

The winger threw a desperate pass back inside to McCloskey, who powered over the line.

Although Cooney missed both conversions, the hosts went in search of the knock-out blow.

They could have had a third try just after the hour mark when prop Matt Mullan produced a try-saving tackle to stop Cooney on the line.

It proved to be the last involvement in the game for the scrum-half but Lealiifano took over the kicking duties and pushed his side into a seven-point lead with 10 minutes remaining after Ashley Johnson strayed offside.

Wasps’ indiscipline cost them a losing bonus point with five minutes remaining as Josh Bassett was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Louis Ludik and Lealiifano curled his penalty just inside the right-hand post.


Ulster: C Piutau; L Ludik, L Marshall (T Bowe, 68), S McCloskey, J Stockdale; C Lealiifano, J Cooney (P Marshall, 64); K McCall, R Herring, W Herbst (R Ah You, 64); K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt); R Diack, S Reidy, J Deysel (C Ross, 64).

Replacements: J Andrew, C Black , R Ah You, M Rea, C Ross, P Marshall, P Nelson, T Bowe.

Wasps: W Le Roux; C Wade, E Daly, B Macken (R Miller, 17), J Bassett; J Gopperth, D Robson; M Mullan (S McIntyre, 64), T Cruse (A Johnson, 14), J Cooper-Woolley (M Moore, 67; J Launchbury (capt), W Rowlands (J Gaskell, 61); J Haskell, T Young (J Willis, 45), N Hughes.

Replacements: A Johnson, S McIntytre, M Moore, J Gaskell, J Willis, J Simpson, R Miller, M Watson.