Monday 26 June 2017

Injured Pienaar could be denied Kingspan farewell as Ulster flop

Ospreys 24 Ulster 10

Pienaar is set to join Montpellier, and his latest back trouble means his final game for Ulster is likely to see him sitting in the stands. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Pienaar is set to join Montpellier, and his latest back trouble means his final game for Ulster is likely to see him sitting in the stands. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile

Alex Bywater

Ulster icon Ruan Pienaar may be robbed of a Kingspan Stadium finale after suffering a back spasm during Saturday's defeat to the Ospreys.

Les Kiss' men saw their Guinness PRO12 play-off hopes all but ended in Swansea, while both Pienaar and Stuart Olding went off injured.

The South African scrum-half, who will leave Ulster at the end of the season after six years in Belfast, is now likely to miss the final game of the campaign at home to Leinster on Saturday.

Kiss said: "Ruan had a back spasm just as the game started. He said he'd ride it out, but it took 20 minutes and then it was gone so that was a blow.

"It's a significant back spasm and sometimes these things take a while to settle. We'll find out later in the week.

"With Stuart it's an ankle injury, we think it's a fracture and it's probably-season ending."

Andrew Trimble of Ulster in action. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile
Andrew Trimble of Ulster in action. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

Pienaar is set to join Montpellier, and his latest back trouble means his final game for Ulster is likely to see him sitting in the stands.

The 33-year-old lasted less than half an hour against the Ospreys as his team went down to a deserved defeat. Tries from Tom Habberfield and Tyler Ardron and two conversions and a penalty from Dan Biggar put the Welsh team 17-3 up at the break.

Ulster didn't take their chances in the second period, and the game was completed by late tries from Brendon Leonard and Ulster replacement Jacob Stockdale. Paddy Jackson kicked five points, but his team now need a miracle to make the Pro12 semi-finals.

Kiss was unhappy at his team's slow start to the game.

Charles Piutau of Ulster in action. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile
Charles Piutau of Ulster in action. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

He said: "We're frustrated and disappointed. There is a fair bit of pain in the dressing-room. I am very frustrated by the result, but also by the fact we gave so much to the Ospreys.

"Fair play to them, they took advantage of it. Ardron's try before half-time was a big blow to us after defending for a large amount of the first half.

"The boys copped it on the chin at half-time. We'd given them the 17-3 lead and we played with some ambition and guile in the second half, but we just weren't good enough."

Ulster will now look to end their season on a high in a derby with Leinster, but they'll likely be without Pienaar whose swansong is set to a lukewarm affair.

If they are to test Leo Cullen's men on home soil, they'll have to improve significantly on this feeble showing.

Sean Reidy of Ulster in action against Kieron Fonotia of Ospreys. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile
Sean Reidy of Ulster in action against Kieron Fonotia of Ospreys. Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

A failure to take their chances and an inability to get out of the blocks quickly cost them dear.

"We have to dust ourselves down and take the pain from this and channel it in the right way," Kiss said. "There's no better game than Leinster to get motivated for."

Ospreys - Evans; Giles, Fonotia, Beck (Matavesi 65), Habberfield (Davies 74); Biggar, Webb (capt) (Leonard 76); Smith (James 65), Baldwin, Mujati (Jones 54), Davies (Ashley 62), Ardron, Underhill (Baker 67), Tipuric (Baker 37-40), King.

Ulster - Gilroy; Trimble (capt), L Marshall, McCloskey (Olding 53, Stockdale 55), Piutau; Jackson, Pienaar (P Marshall 23); Warwick (Black 55), Best (Herring 65), Herbst (Ah You 44), Treadwell, O'Connor (Van der Merwe 77), Henderson, Reidy, Diack (Timoney 62).

Ref - J Lacey (IRFU)

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