Ulster 21-7 Ospreys: Ulster win again but miss out on bonus point

By Michael MorrowBBC Sport NI at Kingspan Stadium
Pro14: Ulster v Ospreys
Ulster (7) 21
Tries: Cooney, Andrew, penalty Cons: Cooney 2
Ospreys (7) 7
Try: Giles Con: Myler

Ulster recovered from a poor start to score three tries in a 21-7 win over Ospreys in Belfast.

Keelan Giles put the visitors ahead almost straight away while Ulster had to wait until the 39th minute to register their first points, which came through a John Cooney try.

John Andrew's score and a penalty try saw the hosts stretch their lead but they could not find a potentially crucial bonus-point.

They remain second in Conference A.

Ulster's four-point win means Leinster can extend their lead at the top to six points if they beat Glasgow while scoring four or more tries on Sunday.

That eventuality would put the reigning champions firmly in command of the conference, as it would mean they could afford to lose to Ulster in Belfast next week and still have a points advantage going into the final two rounds of fixtures.

Ospreys start stronger in scrappy first half

It took Ospreys less than two minutes to cross for the opening score as Ian Madigan's charged down kick set the tone for a disjointed first half from Ulster.

Rhys Webb blocked the attempted clearance before kicking on for Giles to gather beyond the line.

The Welsh side arrived in Belfast full of confidence having won their last four games, with their momentum particularly notable in the scrum, where they won two early penalties to heap more pressure on their hosts.

It was a scrappy encounter with neither side able to build pressure inside opposition territory.

Only once did Ulster's backline click into gear with Jacob Stockdale and Michael Lowry combining to surge beyond halfway only for a no-look pass from James Hume being knocked forward to end the move.

Despite their scrum dominance, which yielded another penalty in the 32nd minute, Ospreys too were guilty of botching opportunities to make real strides into the 22 with passes not sticking.

The inaccuracy on both sides benefited Ulster, who remained in the game despite being far from their best, and drew level on the stroke of half-time when Tiaan Thomas Wheeler's grubber kick was blocked by Madigan and collected by Nick Timoney who raced clear before sending Cooney in.

Improved Ulster can't claim all-important fourth try

As expected Ulster did improve after the break, with an increased tempo aiding their attacking play.

They took the lead on 54 minutes through the trusted rolling maul as John Andrew drove over in the corner.

Where Ulster tightened the screws in the second half, Ospreys continued to struggle to keep ball-in-hand for long periods, and this proved their undoing as they could not keep possession long enough to take control of the game.

When Dan Evans was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately knocking-on with Robert Baloucoune poised to score on his first appearance of the season, Ulster were awarded a penalty try and the stage was set for them to press on in search of the extra point.

Having been frustrated throughout their 10-minute numerical advantage, they thought they had finally found a breakthrough with just two minutes remaining when Rob Lyttle skipped inside a tackle to score - only for the play to be brought back for an infringement to the build-up.

It was another win for Dan McFarland's side, but they will be hoping Glasgow can do them a favour at the RDS on Sunday by at least denying Leinster a bonus-point, which would set the stage nicely for next Saturday's showdown.

Ulster: Michael Lowry; Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Marty Moore; Alan O'Connor, Kieran Treadwell; Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy (capt), Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O'Sullivan, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune.

Ospreys: Dan Evans; Keelan Giles, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Luke Morgan; Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (capt); Gareth Thomas, Sam Parry, Tom Botha, Lloyd Ashley, Rhys Davies, Will Griffiths, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Morris.

Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Nicky Smith, Ma'afu Fia, Gareth Evans, Sam Cross, Shaun Venter, Joe Hawkins, Luke Price.

Referee: Seán Gallagher (IRFU)

Assistant Referees: Eoghan Cross, Paul Haycock (both IRFU)

TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

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