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Jackson: Europe Has Added X-Factor To It

Jackson: Europe Has Added X-Factor To It

Paul Marshall’s converted try in the 50th minute of last Sunday’s game was enough to give Ulster the edge over hosts Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Both teams gleaned points from four penalty opportunities, but while Ulster took advantage of Rynard Landman’s yellow card, the Dragons failed to get through the Ulster defence when Stuart McCloskey and Rory Best were also sent to the sin-bin.

The Ulstermen managed their first away win in seven months, however they did not make it easy for themselves as out-half Paddy Jackson explains.

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“It was pretty tough at the end. We were just starting to get control of the game. We got some points on the board, got ahead of the Dragons and then I dropped the ball and we lost Rory to the sin-bin, which put us under a bit of pressure in the second half,” said Jackson.

“At half-time we talked about our mistakes and our ill-discipline, which let them into the game and we almost gave away the win at the end. It was tough defending the line but a massive credit to the boys for holding them out in the last five minutes.”

The Ireland out-half added: “The conditions were difficult, especially playing into the wind in the first half. I miss-hit the shorter range penalty in the second half – the wind had definitely died down from the warm-up so my alignment was a bit off.

“I was expecting the wind to come down the middle of the pitch but it calmed down towards the end of the game. I was disappointed with that kick, but happy that I managed to refocus myself and land the next two kicks to help secure a win.

“It is difficult to play at Rodney Parade at the best of times, I have lost there a few times in the past and it was especially hard as a young side going there. The crowd is on your back and the conditions are tough, so I made sure the new young guys were aware of that.

“Going in at half-time at 9-6 down wasn’t the worst thing, we knew it was going to be a close game. We were able to get the first try and fair play to them, they are a very tough side to beat at home and we fully expected it to be a tight game.”

This weekend Ulster travel to France to face European Champions Cup debutants Oyonnax; a prospect that is really exciting for Jackson.

“I am massively excited, Europe always has that added X-factor to it, we are champing at the bit to get at Oyonnax. We didn’t do too well in Europe last year so it is a big goal for us to start well,” admitted the 23-year-old.

Ulster are currently fifth in the GUINNESS PRO12 and with a gap already appearing between the top seven and bottom five, next year’s European qualification is looking good.

“The away defeats have made us fall behind slightly. The last few seasons we have been a bit higher up in the league table but it’s a long season. We have guys coming back into the squad from international duty and a few guys are coming back soon from injury, so things are ticking along nicely for us.

“As you can see, we are relying on the depth of our squad now. I thought Kyle McCall was brilliant on Sunday. People don’t really see behind the scenes but Kyle is a good friend of mine,

“I have been playing with him since Under-20 level and he is up there with some of the hardest workers in our squad. I am delighted for him, I thought he was superb against the Dragons. To have him as a prop in the scrum and maul and then running lines off me is brilliant.”