Friday 27 April 2018

Best orders Ulster to go back to basics after Welsh woes

Ospreys 31 Ulster 20

Ulster winger Tommy Bowe breaks through tackles from Ospreys pair Josh Matavesi and Dan Lydiate during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster winger Tommy Bowe breaks through tackles from Ospreys pair Josh Matavesi and Dan Lydiate during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster's Rory Best carries the ball from a ruck during their Guinness Pro12 clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster full-back Louis Ludik is tackled by Ospreys pair Dan Biggar and Ashley Beck during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster's Roger Wilson is tackled by Dan Biggar of the Ospreys during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster centre Darren Cave is tackled by Scott Baldwin of the Ospreys during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Ulster's Mike Allen offloads the ball to teammate Louis Ludik as he is tackled by Ospreys duo Josh Matavesi and Andrew Bishop during their Guinness Pro12 clash at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
Tommy Bowe scores a try for Ulster in their Guinness Pro12 clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE

Matt Lloyd

Rory Best has ordered his Ulster side to draw a line under back-to-back defeats in Wales as they target crunch derbies over the festive period.

Having suffered a telling blow in the Champions Cup at Scarlets the previous weekend, Ulster missed the chance to go top of the Guinness Pro12 at the Liberty Stadium.

However the added failure to either deny four tries to Ospreys, who will spend Christmas Day in top spot, or clinch a consolation bonus of their own, leaves Neil Doak's side out of the play-offs.

They are fifth, sandwiched between Leinster and Connacht who they face in their next two games. And captain Best knows Ulster must muster a response or risk being left behind in the pecking order.

He said: "We've got a big couple of weeks coming up. We want to stay in that top four but that means playing a lot better than we have over the last couple of games.

"It's still very tight at the top so we are very disappointed to come away from this game with nothing and give them [Ospreys] five points. Now it's massively important that we have a big response next week against Connacht.

"We are hugely disappointed but we haven't lost any confidence in what we're doing. We just have to do the basics far better."

Ulster's set-piece showed signs of improvement and created their two tries that sparked an exciting climax at the Liberty Stadium that few, not even the Ospreys, expected when they led 31-6 with a bonus-point in the bag.

Rob Herring finished a lineout drive before the scrum earned a penalty that set-up Tommy Bowe to mark his first appearance at his former home ground with a blistering score.

That merely added to the frustration at squandering two early attacking opportunities when both Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys failed to find touch with penalties.

Pienaar left the Liberty Stadium with his troubled right knee wrapped in ice after he was forced off at half-time, but the early signs were encouraging.

Ulster felt they did not get the bounce of the ball from the officials either. Twice they felt aggrieved with the video referee, either side of half-time. First when Ian Humphreys saw his try ruled out at the second review and then when Eli Walker's inside pass was ruled to have come off an Ulster jersey, allowing Rhys Webb to score his second try.

Doak said: "If you look at the last couple of weeks a few things haven't gone our way. I thought the officiating might have bounced our way before half-time. I saw we were awarded a try, we headed for the tunnel and then the boys came in and said we didn't get the try. I couldn't understand that.

"It has been pretty disappointing from our point of view with the [television match officials]. It has cost us quite a number of games.

"When we have the ball and don't have the ball we have to look after the things we can control and finish off opportunities."

Ulster struggled to contain Webb and his Wales half-back partner Dan Biggar who combined for 26 or the Ospreys 31 points before Herring and Bowe marked a muted comeback.

Bowe, playing at the Liberty Stadium for the first time since leaving the Ospreys in 2012, admitted: "We are very disappointed and are going to have to pick it up after Christmas.

"The league is very competitive this season and it is going to be very hard to get into the top four this year. We have a bit of work to do. We will go away, look at ourselves and come back stronger, especially with a lot of faces to come back from injury."

Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, A Beck (A Bishop, 63), J Matavesi, E Walker; D Biggar, R Webb (M Roberts, 56); M Thomas (G Thomas, 67), S Baldwin (S Parry, 56), D Arhip, R Bernardo (D Lydiate, 50), AW Jones (capt), J King, J Tipuric, T Ardron, J Tipuric.

Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, D Cave (P Nelson, 63), L Marshall (S Olding, 63), M Allen; I Humphreys, R Pienaar (P Marshall, H-T); A Warwick (C Black, 69), R Best (capt, R Herring, 57), D Fitzpatrick (B Ross, 69); D Tuohy, F vd Merwe (A O'Connor, 56), R Diack (S Reidy, 50), R Wilson, C Ross.

Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU).

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