Stockdale seals Ulster win over valiant Ospreys
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Ireland's Jacob Stockdale’s last-minute try sealed a victory for Ulster Rugby as they record a narrow 8-0 win Ospreys side who were dogged in defence from the first whistle to last.
It wasn’t the highest scoring encounter of the season, but that’s not to say there was a lack of effort on both sides as Ospreys tackled their hearts out against wave after wave of Ulster attack.
John Cooney’s third-minute penalty opened the scoring early on, but it was a blank opening period from there on in.
Ulster dominated the opening exchanges but could not turn mountains of possession into a try with Dan Biggar clearing Ospreys’ lines after a lengthy passage of play for the home side.
Stockdale looked set to cross for the first try of the match on 15 minutes, only to be sensationally denied by a try-saving tackle by lock Bradley Davies, who seized the speedster’s jersey metres from the line and stopped him in his tracks.
Biggar, who made 22 tackles from flyhalf, had a golden chance to level the match soon after but sent a 25-yard penalty wide of the target.
Ospreys defended stoutly and thought they had gone ahead on the half-hour when Kieron Fonotia charged across the Ulster line after a turnover, but the officials chalked it off for an alleged earlier infringement by Alun Wyn Jones, blindside flank for the evening and making his 150th appearance for the Welsh side.
Ulster started the second period the way they did the first, with plenty of territory and possession – one passage of play ending with Charles Piutau passing into touch from the back of the hand following a five-metre scrum.
Superb defensive work from Jones, Sam Cross and Tom Habberfield then keep Iain Henderson from crashing over as Ospreys threw body after body in the way of Ulster’s increasing threats.
The Kingspan crowd thought they had finally seen the first try of the evening ten minutes from time, but the TMO denied Nick Timoney his five points as last-ditch work from Owen Watkin saw him lose control of the ball at the key moment.
But the home fans did get their score as the clocked ticked into overtime, Stockdale racing over for an unconverted score after he gathered a misdirected pass from Biggar near the halfway line before sprinting clear.
For Ospreys: None
Yellow card: Jeff Hassler (Ospreys, 58)
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonny McPhillips, 9 John Cooney, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Ross Kane, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tommy O'Toole, 19 Alan O'Connor, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Tommy Bowe.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Sam Davies, 23 James Hook.
Referee: Andy Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)