Match Report: Ospreys 26-46 Ulster Rugby

Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson was man of the match as Ulster won 46-26

Ulster qualified for the semi-finals of the Guinness PRO12 in dominant fashion as they ran in six tries in their 46-26 victory over the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

With both sides openly chasing bonus point wins, Les Kiss’s side led at half-time through tries from Paddy Jackson, Rory Best and Andrew Trimble, while the Ospreys were on the board through Dan Biggar and Josh Matavesi scores.

But in the second half Ulster ran away with it, scoring tries through Chris Henry, Stuart Olding and Franco van der Merwe while two penalties from Jackson made sure of their advantage early in the half.

Substitute winger Tom Grabham got a brace of tries in the second half to give the Ospreys a losing bonus point, but in the end the visitors were superior and deservedly take their place in the quarter-finals.

It was the hosts who deservedly got on the board first through fly-half Biggar who was set over in the 11th minute after James King made the initial surge from the back of a five metre scrum.

It was nothing more than the Welshmen deserved though – they had dominated the early proceedings and were taking advantage of some slack Ulster defending to pick up the opening try.

Not to be outdone by his opposite number though, Paddy Jackson levelled the game five minutes later through a try of his own – Luke Marshall made the initial burst up the middle and then Jackson was running an impressive inside line off Jared Payne to score.

Despite the home side having more possession, they were wasteful with it and they couldn’t find their way through the stern visiting defence who were having a lot of success with the Irish choke tackle.

And when the Ulstermen got into the Ospreys’ half they were lethal and captain Best showed great footwork to step round the flailing arm of a defender to score the visitors’ second try of the game just before the half hour mark.

Ulster’s discipline was badly letting them down though and it allowed the Ospreys to peg them back in their own 22 and just before the half-time interval they had their second try through centre Josh Matavesi.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb took the quick tap penalty and in the midfield Matavesi realised he was between two front rowers and was able to muscle his way through the middle of them to dot down.

But right on the stroke of half-time it was Ulster who struck a decisive blow as they scored a crucial, and rather fortuitous, try through a piece of individual brilliance from Andrew Trimble.

The winger gathered the ball in his own 22 and kicked the ball downfield where the bounce of the ball evaded the covering Webb allowing Trimble to gather and outpace Ben John on the inside and sprint over for the third score.

After the break Craig Gilroy showed his elusive skills by taking the kick-off and evading several defenders to work his way into the Ospreys’ half, eventually winning the first penalty of the game for the visitors which Jackson converted.

Then came two defining moments in the game as firstly Pete Browne won an excellent turnover underneath his own posts to deny the Ospreys a try to get back within three points and then the visitors got the all-important fourth try.

Initially it looked like they had spurned a brilliant opportunity having gone the length of the pitch and ultimately turning the ball over at the line, however the ball rolled back over the try line and quick thinking from Chris Henry saw him dive in and score the try.

After two TMO checks the try was confirmed by the retiring Derek Bevan and Jackson landed the tricky conversion before adding a second penalty just to consolidate the lead they already had.

The Ospreys were determined not to give up without a fight though and they grabbed another try back through substitute winger Tom Grabham who was the benefactor of Sam Davies’ burst through the defensive line, sliding over in the corner.

The trading of tries continued as another substitute forced his way over, this time in the form of Ulster’s Stuart Olding who broke the midfield tackle of Scott Otten to saunter over under the posts.

Grabham grabbed his second with ten minutes to go when the ball went loose in the Ulster 22 and Matavesi’s kick through deflected off Paddy Jackson’s legs, fortunately into the winger’s hands, but it was Ulster’s day and they sealed it with one final try.

Sean Reidy put in a grubber kick through, which he himself gathered, and his inside pass was taken by Franco van der Merwe who charged over from close range to seal the win and send Ulster to the final four.

 

The scorers

For Ospreys

Tries: Biggar, Matavesi, Grabham (2)

Cons: Biggar (3)

For Ulster

Tries: Jackson, Best, Trimble, Henry, Olding, van der Merwe

Cons: Jackson (5)

Pens: Jackson (2)

 

OSPREYS

(15-9) Dan Evans, Ben John (Tom Grabham 58), Owen Watkin (Sam Davies 50), Josh Matavesi, Eli Walker, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb (Brendon Leonard 69); (1-8) Nicky Smith (Gareth Thomas 56), Scott Baldwin (Scott Otten 56), Dmitri Arhip (Aaron Jarvis 48), Rynier Bernardo (Joe Bearman 56), Rory Thornton, Dan Lydiate (Olly Cracknell 48), Sam Underhill, James King.

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall (Darren Cave 56), Stuart McCloskey (Stuart Olding 56), Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall 72); (1-8) Callum Black (Kyle McCall 48), Rory Best (Rob Herring 67), Ricky Lutton (Andy Warwick 64), Pete Browne (Robbie Diack 56), Franco van der Merwe, Iain Henderson (Roger Wilson 56), Chris Henry, Sean Reidy.

 

Man of the Match: Iain Henderson (Ulster)

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)