A good game, plenty of doggedness, and strength displayed both through rucks, continuity and running lines, but still too many handling errors/knock ons and in the first half particularly not enough line breaks
Match Report: Ospreys 12-18 Ulster Rugby
There are few better ways to prepare for the Heineken Cup than winning away to the Ospreys, and thankfully that’s what Ulster did last night in a dogged comeback performance at the Liberty Stadium.
12-0 down early in the second half thanks to four Dan Biggar penalties, Ulster worked their way back into the game through the boot of Paddy Jackson, eventually passing Biggar’s total for the evening and taking home the four points in an 18-12 victory.
The game itself was not the spectacle that many believed it would be, and creativity in the backs was severely lacking, instead both teams relied on their kickers to keep them in the match.
Two yellow cards (one for each side) were awarded late on in a dubious refereeing performance from Peter Fitzgibbon, but Ulster did enough to hold off a strong Ospreys attack at the base of the posts in the last few minutes to seal the win.
In a drab first half, two penalties from the always accurate Dan Biggar were enough to give the Ospreys a 6-0 interval lead, although ref Peter Fitzgibbon’s repeated decision to go to the TMO and look at incidents was very frustrating for the fans.
After the break it seemed like the Ospreys were going to run away with it, with Biggar landing another two early penalties inside the first eight minutes to give the home side a twelve point lead. It was clear that the Welshmen were firmly in the ascendancy.
However, Ulster clawed their way back into the game and using their advantage in the scrum to force the ref’s hand, Paddy Jackson knocked over three penalties in nine minutes to reduce the gap to just three, despite the fact that the Ulstermen had rarely threatened all game.
Jackson was on hand to level the scores with fifteen minutes to play with his fourth penalty, and then stepped up to give Ulster the lead with a beautifully struck fifth penalty with only seven minutes to go.
From there the Ulstermen pinned the Ospreys back in their own 22 and managed to prise not just another penalty out of the home side, but a yellow card too for substitute prop Aaron Jarvis who was deemed to be deliberately slowing the ball down. Jackson took the gap beyond a three-pointer, and seemingly giving Ulster the win.
It wasn’t to be so easy though as the Ospreys gathered their own kick-off, then laid siege to the Ulster try line in the desperate hope of finding that last minute score to win the game. In the process, Ulster centre Stuart Olding was sin-binned, also for deliberately slowing the ball down, however it wasn’t to be for the Ospreys as Lions hooker Richard Hibbard knocked the ball on at the line.
It is the perfect lead-in for Ulster who face Leicester next Friday at Ravenhill as they aim to get their Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start, and this will give them massive confidence ahead of that opening clash.
Pen: Biggar (4)
Pen: Jackson (6)
(15-9) Richard Fussell, Jeff Hassler (Ben John 70), Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck, Eli Walker, Dan Biggar, Tito Tebaldi; (1-8) Ryan Bevington (Duncan Jones 60), Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones (Aaron Jarvis 70), Alun-Wyn Jones (c), Ian Evans (James King 65), Tyler Ardron (Sam Lewis 65), Justin Tipuric, Joe Bearman.
Subs not used: Scott Baldwin, Tom Habberfield, Matthew Morgan
Yellow card: Aaron Jarvis (76)
(15-9) Craig Gilroy (David McIlwaine 12), Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall (Stuart Olding 46), Michael Allen, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall (Michael Heaney 61); (1-8) Tom Court (Callum Black 65), Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (c), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack (Iain Henderson 55), Chris Henry, Nick Williams (Roger Wilson 61).
Subs not used: Rob Herring, Bronson Ross
Yellow card: Stuart Olding (78)
Man of the Match: Paddy Jackson
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
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