OSPREYS 26 ULSTER 46
Ulster confirmed a Guinness PRO12 semi-final away to Leinster later this month with an impressive win over Ospreys at Liberty Stadium.
With an exciting day set to unfold on the final day of the regular league season, Ulster’s mission was to secure a bonus point win over the Welsh.
They achieved that assignment by the 55th minute with Chris Henry try securing all five match points.
They went on to score six tries in total and on this form are putting themselves forward as serious contenders for the title.
Both teams came into the game with a mind to playing open rugby and an entertaining half ensued.
First blood went to the hosts on 11 minutes when Dan Biggar went over for a try after good forward pressure following a penalty and lineout. Outhalf Biggar added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Ulster hit back strongly and outhalf Paddy Jackson went in for a try, converting to level the scores.
The end to end play continued, although Ulster’s discipline was not fully punished by Ospreys.
The Welsh side, knowing they needed a bonus point victory to give them any chance of squeezing into the Champions Cup qualification places, turned down kickable options but their inaccuracy from lineout and scrums cost them.
On 26 minutes Ulster went ahead when Luke Marshall, Jared Payne and Iain Henderson had made small yards and the ball was spun left where captain Rory Best forced his way over from 10m. Jackson’s conversion made it 7-14.
The final five minutes saw a try for both sides.
Ospreys centre Josh Matavesi had space on the right and went through Best and Callum Black to score, Biggar adding the extras.
But Ulster were to have the last say in an entertaining first half with a piece of genius from winger Andrew Trimble,.
The Irish international fielded a box kick from Webb on his own ‘22’ line, chipped ahead into space and although the bounce was lucky he left the cover for dead to score a potential try of the season.
Jackson’s conversion, the last play of the half and a penalty two minutes into the second half pushed Ulster into a 14-24 lead.
But the Irish Province was scrappy with their execution at the start of the second half and the Ospreys threatened to reduce the advantage. But their accuracy was poor and Ulster weathered the storm.
The vital fourth try to secure the bonus point was made by Chris Henry, showing his knowledge of the game after Webb had rolled the ball back with his foot to the ingoal line - Henry stretched out a hand to take the valuable score.
Jackson converted and added another penalty on 58 minutes to make it 34-14.
It was basically one-way traffic after that with Ulster getting further scores through replacement Stuart Olding and lock Franco van der Merwe, Jackson kicking one conversion to give him a return of seven from eight.
Ospreys replacement Tom Grabham scored a brace either side of those, but Ulster were comprehensive winners 46-26.