Peel Praises Hundred-Cap Hero McCloskey
Stuart McCloskey put in a man of the match performance as Ulster edged out Ospreys 8-0 at Brewery field in Bridgend.
After 47 minutes, it was McCloskey who broke the deadlock with a crucial try, beating two defenders before finding full-back Pete Nelson with a clever off-load out of the back door. Nelson was stopped just short of the line but the ball was spread wide and McCloskey was in the right place to touch down in the corner.
Speaking after the game, Ulster backs coach, Dwayne Peel, heaped praise on McCloskey’s performance – his 100th cap for the province.
“He’s huge – a great leader for us. Anyone who watches us knows how big he is for us. He never takes a step backwards and he carries a lot of ball for us. He’s probably battered after every game but fair play to him. He’s key for us.”
Peel was quick to emphasise it is not only McCloskey’s physical presence, but his skill with ball-in-hand that makes him so dangerous in attack.
“If you watch him in training, his catch-pass stuff is excellent. He can pass a ball as well as anyone. Showing that in games, people are surprised but they shouldn’t be. He’s one of the best ball-players in our squad, definitely.”
Michael Lowry also earned plaudits from Peel, starting his first game at out-half for Ulster, having previously been primarily deployed at full-back.
“I actually thought he was excellent in his first start at 10. He’s played a lot at 15 but I thought he controlled the game really well. I’m really pleased with him. He’s brave. I thought defensively he was excellent.”
Following his impressive display pulling the strings for Ulster, unfortunately Lowry was forced to leave the field early following a head injury.
Overall, Peel was happy with his team’s defensive performance but acknowledges his side could have been more clinical.
“It wasn’t a classic but held onto the ball well in that first half especially. We were disappointed not to finish in the corner but we created enough. We held onto the ball and we put a good Ospreys defence under pressure. They play a difficult style to break down.”
“We’re a bit disappointed not to score a few more tries but in terms of making chance, we’re pretty happy.”
“We were disappointed after the Treviso draw at home because we felt we didn’t fire any shots. Tonight we fired shots and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Ulster now find themselves in 4th place in the Pool B table of the PRO 14. With an important block of games against Zebre, Dragons and Southern Kings to come during the Six Nations window, McFarland’s men will be hoping to pick up more crucial points as they look to secure an all-important top-three spot.