Ospreys ease past Ulster to take pole position in Guinness PRO12

Ospreys' Rhys Webb scores his side's second try in the 31-20 over Ulster
Ospreys' Rhys Webb scores his side's second try in the 31-20 over Ulster


Ospreys moved to the top of the Guinness PRO12 with a pure quality performance which saw them secure five match points against an Ulster side who decided to turn up an hour late.

Ulster produced as poor a performance has been seen this season for 60 minutes by which time the Welsh side had their fourth try scored and bonus point bagged.

More concerning for Ulster, who already have a massive injury list, was the sight of scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar with his right knee iced up when the teams returned from the break.

Ulster rallied in the final quarter with tries from replacement hooker Rob Herring and winger Tommy Bowe - Humphreys converting both - and although it did spark a purple patch, it was too little too late.

Ulster had talked about their ill discipline in the build-up to the game, but conceded a penalty after just three minutes and Ospreys outhalf, Dan Biggar opened the scoring.

A good passage of offloads from Ulster put them on the front foot and on the 15th minute Ian Humphreys levelled at 3-3 with a long range penalty.

But the Ospreys were to go 10-3 ahead when Alun Wyn Jones broke through first line tackles and they kept the ball alive through offloads and finally the opening appeared for Biggar to go through for a simple try, which he converted after 17 minutes.

Two minutes later Ospreys centre, Ashley Beck slipped a couple of tackles, but as he edged near the danger area and was tackled he was pinged for not releasing.

On 25 minutes, Ospreys showed great hands again as they moved the ball right through Dan Evans, Justin Tipuric, Tyler Ardon and winger, Hannon Dirksen found space to get away, but again Ulster scrambled well and then a huge effort from the Ulster scrum forced Ospreys to go down.

But Ulster’s first up defence was shocking and the Ospreys were enjoying the abundance of possession and space they were making, giving the home and neutral fan a high quality game to watch.

It was no surprise when, after some further quality play, the Ulster defence was finally stretched and scrumhalf, Rhys Webb sent over for his 10th try of the season. Biggar added the extras for a 17-3 lead two minutes from the break.

The half was to end in a shambles when Humphreys went over for a try, which was awarded by the referee, then confirmed by the TMO, but ruled out after further review by intervention from the assistant referee.

Ulster started the second half strongly, and Humphreys doubled their points tally to six, but by the time the third quarter was sl over, Ospreys had a 31-6 lead and the bonus point secured after Webb and Dirksen crossed for tries and Biggar converted both.

On 60 minutes Ulster did get good field position and from a lineout and driving maul, replacement hooker Rob Herring was rumbled over. Humphreys landed a superb touchline conversion.

That lifted Ulster and they began to play with confidence and some cohesion, with British Lion winger, Tommy Bowe, going over for a try against his old club. Humphreys made it 31-20 with his fourth successful place kick of the evening - but that was as close as the visitors were to come - and they slipped to fifth place in the standings.

Ospreys: Dan Evans; Hanno Dirksen, Ashley Beck, Josh Matavesi, Eli Walker; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Marc Thomas, Scott Baldwin, Dmitri Arhip, Rynier Bernardo, Alun Wyn Jones (Capt), James King, Justin Tipuric, Tyler Ardron

Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Daniel Suter, Dan Lydiate, Sam Lewis, Martin Roberts, Sam Davies, Andrew Bishop

Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, M Allen; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best (Capt), D Fitzpatrick; D Tuohy, F vd Merwe; R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson.

Replacements: R Herring, C Black, B Ross, A O’Connor, S Reidy, P Marshall, S Olding, P Nelson.