Ulster too good for Ospreys
PRO14 REPORT: Craig Gilroy made a triumphant return from long-term injury, inspiring Ulster to a 38-14 bonus-point win over Ospreys in their Pro14 opener.
Gilroy, plagued by a back injury for the last 11 months, twice gathered Billy Burns cross-field kicks to dot down as his side opened with a convincing victory.
Ulster were beaten just once on home soil last season in the Pro14 and while a fast start fuelled optimism, Ospreys couldn’t build on Dan Evans’ early score.
Only Leinster and Munster conceded fewer Pro14 tries than these two sides last season, but it didn’t take long for Ospreys to make the breakthrough.
Price, increasingly instrumental in the absence of Gareth Anscombe and after the departure of Sam Davies, kicked an early penalty and then slipped Dan Evans in for the fullback to make it 8-0.
Ulster looked rattled and coughed up possession from a rolling maul but Burns took control, taking the ball off the top of a line-out and cross-kicking for Gilroy to run in unchallenged.
Luke Morgan’s sin-binning for offside was the turning point and Ulster plundered two tries in the space of ten minutes, No.8 Greg Jones burrowing over before new signing Matt Faddes extended the lead out wide.
With Price withdrawn after a head injury and centre Cory Allen hobbling off, Ospreys toiled and Burns was at it again, chipping 40 metres across field for Gilroy to do the honours.
The scoreline was made more emphatic with Ulster awarded a penalty try after Morgan nudged a player chasing a grubber kick and was given a second yellow card.
Tries: Gilroy 2, Jones 2, Penalty try
Cons: Cooney 4
Pens: Price 3
Yellow card: Luke Morgan (Ospreys, 28)
Red card: Luke Morgan (Ospreys, 72)
Ulster: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 James Hume, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Michael Lowry, 23 Louis Ludik.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Luke Price, 9 Matthew Aubrey, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 James King, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Sam Cross, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Cai Evans, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)