Ulster win snorefest
PRO14 REPORT: Stuart McCloskey’s score early in the second period and a late John Cooney penalty were enough for Ulster to seal an 8-0 victory at Ospreys.
McCloskey’s powerful break and neat offload to Peter Nelson broke the Ospreys’ line, and he finished off the move a phase later by diving over.
Cooney landed his only kick of three attempts in the final play of the encounter.
A battling contest was lacking in clear try-scoring opportunities as both defences maintained metronomic discipline in snuffing out movements from midfield.
Wing Angus Kernohan had the best chance of crossing the whitewash in the first half – neat Ulster build-up exposing a rare gap in the Ospreys backline.
Kernohan was fed possession just yards away on the right, but never cleanly gathered and the ball squirmed behind his sliding body agonisingly short of the line.
Cooney had earlier sent a long-distance penalty from the left wide of the posts, while Ospreys’ Luke Morgan looked the home side’s best chance of a spark, enjoying a couple of entertaining runs down the left, but the opening period finished scoreless.
McCloskey’s explosive break seven minutes into the second period got the visitors on the board – a neat sidestep led to a surging run and delicious offload to Nelson from the outside of the hand.
Full-back Nelson was prevented from going over by a superb covering tackle from James King, but McCloskey picked up the pieces and dived over wide to get the score, Cooney sending the resulting conversion back off the post.
Ulster looked more likely to extend their lead as the game wore on, but despite the Welsh outfit containing the visitors’ threat, Ospreys enjoyed little forays deep into Ulster territory in response.
Ospreys upped their efforts in the final ten minutes, with home forwards crashing into the Ulster backline time after time and the visitors throwing bodies in the way as they protected their slender advantage.
Their defence was epitomised by a huge turnover by Andy Warwick with five minutes on the clock and the Ospreys maul looking dangerous – a crucial shift in possession as they robbed the Ospreys of a promising position.
And insult was added to injury as the clock ticked into overtime, as Cooney robbed the Ospreys of the losing bonus point by launching a huge penalty through the posts to complete the scoring after a collapsed scrum.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Sam Davies (captain), 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Jordan Lay.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Rowan Jenkins, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Will Griffiths, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Luke Price, 23 Keelan Giles.
Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Angus Kernohan, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Michael Lowry, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 James Hume, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Ben Breakspear (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 15, 2019