Darren Cave scores two tries as Ulster end Ospreys' winning run

Welsh side's second-half comeback falls short in Belfast

Darren Cave scored two tries against the Ospreys in Ulster’s 25-16 victory in the   Guinness Pro 12 game at the  Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Russell Pritchard/Inpho/Presseye

Darren Cave scored two tries against the Ospreys in Ulster’s 25-16 victory in the Guinness Pro 12 game at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Russell Pritchard/Inpho/Presseye

 

Ulster 25 Ospreys 16

Ulster somehow toughed this one out to become the first side to down the Ospreys in this season’s Guinness Pro12 on a foul night of weather even by the Kingspan Stadium’s standards.

A try in each half from Darren Cave – who along with Stuart Olding and Craig Gilroy had been returned from Ireland camp – along with a first-half score from Franco van der Merwe helped Ulster nail the four points though it was a nervy affair after the home side’s 18-3 half-time lead was eaten into by the Ospreys who closed things to 18-16 with just under 20 minutes to play.

But Ulster, dominant in the scrum throughout, somehow dug themselves out of their predicament though the sight of Paddy Jackson going off with a shoulder injury was a real downbeat note.

With their scrum looking strong from the off and the Ospreys not looking confident with ball in hand, Ulster managed to dig out the opening try of the night after only 10 minutes when they shoved the visitors off their own ball and went on the attack in the Welsh side’s 22.

The result saw Cave wriggle through the middle of a ruck to score after 10 minutes and Jackson’s conversion made it 7-0.

Looking more assured from there on, it was little surprise that Ulster increased their lead when Jackson kicked a 20th-minute penalty after the Ospreys were pinged at a ruck.

Twelve minutes later Jackson kicked a wonderful penalty from out towards the touchline to make it 13-0 though that became 13-3 from the restart when Sam Davies punished some poor work from the home side.

With Ulster’s scrum dominant, they again manufactured a crucial score from the set-piece with a driving maul spinning its way over the Welsh side’s line with Van der Merwe getting the 39th-minute score. Jackson, though, missed the conversion and Ulster had to be content with their 18-3 lead.

The Ospreys needed to respond and did so three minutes in after their lineout maul drove over the Ulster line and scrumhalf Martin Roberts got the touchdown which Davies converted to now narrow the home side’s lead to 18-10.

But the momentum then swung the Ospreys way and two penalties from Davies – in the 59th and the 61st minute – narrowed Ulster’s lead to just 18-16 with the second strike following just after Jackson was forced off after falling heavily on a shoulder.

It was nerve-jangling stuff at this stage and with the conditions actually worsening, Ulster somehow found a way to re-launch their lineout maul late on and after a series of pick and goes, Cave got the ball with space and stepped inside to just make the line, the vital score coming courtesy of the TMO.

Ian Humphreys, on for Jackson, converted which not only secured the game but also denied the Ospreys a losing bonus.

ULSTER: S Olding; L Ludik, D Cave, S McCloskey, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst; L Stevenson, F van der Merwe; C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson (capt).

Replacements: N Williams for Ross, A O’Connor for Stevenson (both 59 mins), I Humphreys for Jackson (62 mins), D Fitzpatrick for Herbst, A Warwick for Black (both 67mins). Not used: J Andrew, M Heaney, P Nelson.

OSPREYS: D Evans;T Grabham, A Bishop, A Beck, A Natoga; S Davies, M Roberts; D Jones, S Parry, D Arhip; L Peers (capt), R Bernardo; J King, S Lewis, D Baker.

Replacements: M Thomas for Jones (38 mins), C Griffiths for Arhip (59 mins), H Dirksen for Bishop (60 mins). Not used: M Dwyer, R Thornton, I Boladau, I Jones,T Habberfield,

Referee: N Hennessy (Wales)

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