Ospreys open new season in Belfast
The first few minutes belonged to the Ospreys on a cold, rainy night in Belfast with all the early pressure coming from the Welsh region as the Guinness PRO14 season kicked off under faltering flood-lights at The Kingspan Stadium. Following 5 minutes of sustained pressure, Ulster lock Sam Carter was caught offside with Ospreys no.10 Luke Price nailing his first attempt at goal to put Ospreys 0-3 ahead.
From the re-start, it was the Ospreys who once again set the pace with a stunning set-piece move. A cunning change of direction in play from scrum-half Aubrey, passing to fly half Price near half-way, who then put full back Dan Evans away for a 60-metre sprint to the line for a brilliant try. Ospreys 0-8 ahead in as many minutes.
With Ulster started to become more involved in the game, two penalties came their way in quick succession just after the 10 minute mark. Captain Rob Herring asked his fly half to kick to the corner in the first instance. However, the gamble did not pay off following a determined turn over from Ospreys captain Dan Lydiate.
Ulster were on the front foot again shortly afterwards when fly half Billy Burns displaying great vision with a cross field kick, collected by Craig Gilroy to touch down for Ulstermen’s first try of the game. Converted by Cooney, the score brought the home side to within a point.
A penalty bang on half-way on 21 minutes, for not releasing, saw the Ospreys extend their lead to 7-11 - Luke Price converting an exceptional penalty kick from inside his own half.
The first quarter gone, Ulster began to string some phases together with winger Rob Lyttle becoming more and more involved in the game. Scrambling defence from the Ospreys saw a yellow card for winger Luke Morgan and from the resulting line out, 12 phases later, Ulster took the lead for the first time when no.8 Greg Jones crashed over from short-range. John Cooney converted to take the score to 14-11.
With 14 men on the pitch, the Ospreys continued to play a wide game, and on 33 minutes a worrying injury to James King saw the lock leave the field with replacement Dan Baker making a popular competitive return for the region after his recent 699 days out injured.
A penalty on the 10-metre line for not releasing saw the Ospreys continue to press the home side. Price went for the corner and a superb lineout take and a strong drive from Lloyd Ashley saw another penalty come the way of the Welsh region. Price, this time, opted to kick for goal, bringing the score level at 14-14.
As the clock ticked down to the break the half seemed done when a superb move from the Ulstermen saw them take play from one side of the pitch to the other. New signing Matt Faddes finished a fine move to go over in the corner. A conversion from the touchline from no.9 John Cooney took the score to 21-14 at half time.
The second half saw Ulster start as they ended the first with a quick penalty goal followed by a carbon-copy of their opening try; Burns kicking across the field for Gilroy to finish his second try of the night and Ulster’s fourth for the bonus point.
A serious looking injury to Cory Allen after a positive run taking on four Ulster players, saw him leave the field shortly afterwards, centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler coming on as replacement. What followed was a period of titanic defending from the Ospreys despite the injuries coming thick and fast with Luke Price and Dan Evans also leaving the field.
Some great line speed from the Ospreys kept a relentless Ulster team at Bay with wave after wave of attack - the away side working tirelessly to defend their line in a solid 20 minutes.
A harsh call from the video referee on 71 minutes saw Luke Morgan red carded for a second yellow card offence after he was deemed to have taken Ulster full back Faddes out as he reached for a score in the corner. The referee awarded a penalty try to make the final score 38-14 to Ulster.