Ulster's Stockdale says he 'was in a dark place' following his missed try against Leinster
Jacob Stockdale says the backing of team-mates and opponents helped him bounce back from his fumble in Ulster's Champions Cup defeat by Leinster.
The Ireland wing, 23, dropped the ball while trying to score, which cost Ulster a possible semi-final place.
The support of team-mates and Leinster players helped ease his dismay.
"It was really important for me because I was in a pretty dark place and I was really upset, so it was good to have that," he said.
Early in the second half, with Ulster leading by two points, Stockdale weaved past three Leinster defenders and appeared certain to touch the ball down for a superb solo try - but he lost control at the crucial moment and the try was disallowed.
Leinster responded by scoring a try of their own and the European champions eventually held on to win 21-18, securing their place in the last four.
The winger spoke to his team-mates in the changing room at full time and the following day made an apology to the travelling supporters on social media.
"A lot of people said to me that I shouldn't have felt that way, but I just felt like I had cost us a semi-final," he said.
"If I get that ball down it's a one-try or two-try game and we're looking pretty comfortable. All of a sudden I drop it and Leinster get back into the game.
"I just felt that I had to [apologise] and I realised that we had an incredible amount of support there - a lot of people had paid a lot of money to come down and watch us and made a lot of effort, so I felt like I had to say sorry that they weren't getting to enjoy a semi-final."
Stockdale was a despondent figure on the pitch at full time at the Aviva Stadium. The mistake occurred in the same corner of the pitch where he scored his famous try against New Zealand last November, but Ireland and Ulster captain Rory Best was one of the first to offer some words of encouragement.
"Besty was really important. He just put an arm around me and said, 'You had a really good game and that one moment is not going to define you' - I think that was probably something I needed to hear at that point," added Stockdale.
"Afterwards in the changing room I asked Besty if I could take a minute to say to the lads, because I wanted to apologise to them as well because they worked incredibly hard to get there and to not be in a semi-final.
"So I started to speak and - I think Besty said it - it turned into the House of Commons with everyone [shouting at me to sit down]. So that was really nice to have their support and it just showed me how close-knit a team we are."
Stockdale also received some messages from his international team-mates in the Leinster camp: "One or two of them didn't actually mention the drop, which I appreciated!
"I suppose, that again made me realise that everybody just wants you to do well and everybody supports each other, which at that point a day or two after the game was really important for me."
Ulster are in second place in Conference B with just two rounds of regular-season matches remaining in the Pro14. A victory in Edinburgh on Friday would guarantee the Irish province a quarter-final spot and a place in next season's European Champions Cup.
Stockdale is determined not to allow the fumble to affect his confidence for the rest of the season and is confident the experience has taught him some valuable lessons.
"I'm learning every time I step on to the pitch and some lessons are easy to learn and some are harder to learn - unfortunately this was one of the hard ones," he said.