Ulster 25 Ospreys 16

An Ulster try with just two minutes remaining denied the Ospreys a losing bonus point on an awful night in Belfast.

Missing 23 players through international call-up or injury they endured a torrid first half and went in at the interval trailing by 15. However, a vastly improved showing in the second period saw the deficit cut back to just two points inside the final quarter, Martin Roberts with a try and Sam Davies enjoying a good night with the boot.

However, a last gasp try from Darren Cave, his second of the night, ensured not only a first PRO12 defeat of the campaign for the Ospreys, but also that they left Kingspan Stadium empty handed.

Ulster snatched the lead on 10 minutes, Cave grabbing his first try of the night.

There appeared little danger with the Ospreys awarded a scrum on their own 22 but the pack disintegrated under pressure, allowing Ulster to steal the ball.

It was Cave who went for the line initially but having found his path blocked the ball was recycled and Ulster retained possession well, before the centre burrowed over on the right for a score that was converted by Paddy Jackson.

In terrible conditions it was never going to be a free-flowing classic, both teams putting boot to ball and playing territory wherever possible, and even that was proving tricky at times with the wind carrying the ball out on the full on more than one occasion.

As the midway point of the half approached a side entry from Sam Lewis, looking to snaffle possession close to his own 22 as the ball seemed to squirm out of a ruck, allowed Jackson to stretch the lead to 10 points.

Another side entry decision against Lewis then allowed Jackson another pop at goal and he made no mistake with a tricky kick from the right that just scraped in off the far post, but the Ospreys hit straight back through the boot of Sam Davies after Rob Herring committed the same offence as Ulster looked to take control from the restart.

A penalty against Duncan Jones at the scrum on halfway allowed Jackson to put Ulster close to the Ospreys line with just a couple of minutes remaining in the half. Their first attempted drive was halted illegally, and handed a second chance they again went for the lineout, from where Franco Van Der Merwe was driven over for Ulster’s second try, albeit with a strong suspicion of offside at the front of the maul. 

Jackson missed the conversion, meaning the hosts went in with a 15-point lead at the break.


The Ospreys needed a bright start to the second half and they duly delivered with their first try inside three minutes of the restart.

Having been punished from a catch and drive at the end of the first half, they showed that they could do it just as efficiently themselves, spurning a long range penalty to the corner from which a shortened two-man lineout provided good possession for the Ospreys to rumble over from almost 20m out, scrum half Roberts controlling the drive before dabbing down. Davies added the extras without any difficulty.

Having spent much of the first half under the cosh, the Ospreys were seeing much more of the ball in attacking areas this period with the experienced heads of Roberts  and Dan Evans offering good guidance to their team-mates while Davies was also impressing.

Just short of the hour a penalty at the scrum, against Wiehahn Herbst, allowed the Ospreys an opportunity to close the gap to just five points and Davies made no mistake from almost 40 metres.

The Ospreys were well on top now and, incredibly, in the 62nd minute Davies slotted over another penalty, Ulster offside, to bring his team back to within two points.

Ulster had shown very little as an attacking force in the second half but a great run from Stuart McCloskey at the heart of the defence had the Ospreys scrambling. Cave ignored his man on the outside to cut back infield, and after the Ospreys managed to halt the first wave of attack, an accidental offside from Ulster allowed Davies to clear.

With five minutes remaining the Ospreys were sniffing what had seemed at half-time like an improbable victory, but an obvious penalty against Aisea Natoga for crossing allowed Ian Humphreys to put hjs team up into the corner. 

Their best attempt at a drive was repelled, but Ulster were able to use every bit of their vast experience to go through the phases, stretching the defence, until Cave was able to stretch over, the TMO confirming the grounding. Humphreys added the extras and there was no way back with a little over a minute showing on clock by now, the Ospreys having to leave empty handed despite a courageous second half effort.