Ospreys upset Ulster
PRO14 REPORT: Ospreys turned around a terrible run of recent form with a hard-fought and incredibly dramatic 26-24 win against second-placed Conference A rivals Ulster.
With Storm Dennis in full swing coast to coast rugby was not the order of the day, but both Ospreys and Ulster played the conditions well in an intensely-contested six-try spectacle.
It was Ospreys who were first on the board, with Luke Price slotting a penalty after four minutes to open the scoring, but Ulster were quick to respond.
With a point to prove, Irish international Stuart McCloskey made a barging run, offloading to in-form wing Robert Baloucoune for the try, with Billy Burns adding the extras.
Just five minutes later another international centre out to impress – Owen Watkin – hit a good line in close quarters, stepping the man and slipping and sliding in under the posts for his first Pro14 try in nearly four years.
Price’s conversion was good, seeing the home side take the advantage back, score 10-7 to the hosts on 16 minutes.
Scott Otten added to the tally just ten minutes later from the back of a driving maul following a TMO decision. Price missed the conversion from wide, taking the score to 15-7.
However, the flyhalf made up for his miss just four minutes later, extending the home side’s lead to 19-7 on 29 minutes.
Ulster stayed very much in the game and cut the deficit to nine points at half-time via the boot of Billy Burns.
Following the break Ospreys seemed galvanised and seven minutes in Otten bagged his second of the night as almost the whole team committed to the driving maul. With Price’s kick the Ospreys were now out to a 23-10 lead.
Patience was required and patient Ulster were, as the forwards created the space for fullback Matt Faddes to cross out wide. Replacement flyhalf Bill Johnston added the extras and Ulster were now within six points of the hosts.
On 67 minutes Ulster were rewarded once more as Johnston dinked the ball out wide to the waiting McCloskey who just had to dot it down. Johnston’s extras saw Ulster lead for the first time in the game – 24-23.
It was Price and Ospreys who were to have the last say though, as the flyhalf nailed a penalty from 35 metres out in what was the final score of the game – relief at the Liberty Stadium at last.
Play of the day
If conditions were to blame for the slugfest that was the Calcutta Cup, Ospreys and Ulster were having none of Storm Dennis with plenty of ambitious play.
There were many moments of excitement in this six-try affair, but the standout moment had to be the charge down of Bill Johnston.
Line-speed, commitment and elation for fans after what has been a tough season on and off the field so far in Ospreylia.
Man of the Match
Dan Lydiate was all over the field, making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and putting in a lot of work on the floor.
With many on-field leaders away with Wales, he stepped up and showed his class and experience in spades.
Tries: Watkin, Otten 2
Pens: Price 3
Tries: Baloucoune, Faddes, McCloskey
Con: Burns, Johnston 2
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Simon Gardiner, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 23 James Hook
Ulster: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Main photo: PRO14Official