Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ulster march past sorry Ospreys

Ospreys 26 Ulster 46

Paddy Jackson hoists an up and under for his team mates to chase. Photo: Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson hoists an up and under for his team mates to chase. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruan Pienaar's kick is charged down by Rhys Webb. Photo: Sportsfile
Jared Payne gets the ball away. Photo: Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson goes over to score a try for his side. Photo: Sportsfile Newsdesk

Ulster marched into the PRO12 play-off semi-finals with an impressive bonus-point win at the Ospreys. Three tries in each half wrapped-up a comfortable win against a poor Ospreys side, who miss out on qualification for the Champions Cup for the first time in their history.

The hosts had been without 15 players because of injury for the final game of the campaign but were able to include influential Wales international half- back pairing Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar.

They combined for the opening try after 12 minutes after a solid drive from James King. Biggar's opposite number Paddy Jackson hit back immediately for Ulster with their first try, taking an inside ball from Jared Payne after good work from Iain Henderson.

Ulster captain Rory Best took advantage of a slip from Ospreys number eight King to force his way over for their second try after 27 minutes, with Jackson adding his second conversion.

The visitors put themselves under pressure with their ill-discipline in the first half and it allowed Ospreys centre Josh Matavesi to stretch over for their second score four minutes from the interval. But Andrew Trimble restored their seven point advantage before the break with an excellent individual try.

He collected a deep kick, chipped ahead and gathered his own effort before going past Webb and Dan Evans to go over.

It was two minutes into the second half before the Ospreys conceded their first penalty of the game and Jackson made the most of opportunity with a long-range kick.

With three tries in the first half Ulster seemed content to let the home side force the pace and the game descended into a scrappier affair.

The Ospreys did make some brief inroads into the Ulster half but were continually getting turned over in contact.

Ulster's bonus-point then try came in bizarre circumstances with TMO Derek Bevan, in his last game before retiring from a distinguished career, at the centre of things.

After taking the ball 70m downfield Ulster lost the ball in contact, only for Rhys Webb to hesitate when picking the ball up from the ruck allowing Chris Henry to dive through the ruck and get a hand on the ball over the line.

TMO Bevan initially awarded the score, only to go back to the video for second time after protests from Biggar, before giving the try for a second time.

Ospreys replacement Tom Grabham scored twice in the final quarter of an hour, either side of a fifth Ulster try through Stuart Olding, who walked through some woeful defending from the home side to go under the posts.

Franco van der Merwe then added a sixth and final try for Ulster with three minutes to go.

Scorers - Ospreys: Grabham 2 tries, Biggar try, 3 cons, J Matavesi) Ulster: Jackson try, 2 pens, 5 cons, R Best, Trimble, Henry, Olding, van der Merwe try each.

Ospreys: D Evans, B John (T Grabham 61), O Watkin (S Davies 51), J Matavesi, E Walker, D Biggar, R Webb (c) (B Leonard 70): N Smith (G Thomas 57), S Baldwin, D Arhip (A Jarvis 49), R Bernardo (J Bearman 59), R Thornton, D Lydiate (O Cracknell 49), S Underhill (S Otten 65), J King

Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, L Marshall (D Cave 59), S McCloskey (S Olding 57), C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar (P Marshall 73); C Black (K McCall 49), R Best (c) (R Herring 68), R Lutton (A Warwick 65) , P Browne (R Diack 57), F van der Merwe, I Henderson (R Wilson 57) , C Henry, S Reidy.

Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)

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