Henderson returns as Ulster edge low-scoring Ospreys affair
Stuart McCloskey scores the game’s only try as visitors keep a clean sheet in Bridgend
Stuart McCloskey was named man of the match in Ulster’s win over the Ospreys. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho
Ospreys 0 Ulster 8
Iain Henderson gave Joe Schmidt a welcome selection headache as the Ireland lock played 80 minutes in Ulster’s narrow victory over the Ospreys in Wales.
The 2017 British & Irish Lions tourist has been missing since undergoing surgery on his thumb in December.
And with injuries in the boilerhouse the sight of the big lock charging around the field would have warmed Schmidt up inside.
This narrow victory was enough to temporarily elevate Ulster back into the Pro14 Conference B play-off places with Benetton hosting the Scarlets today.
A second half try from man of the match Stuart McCloskey and a late John Cooney penalty were enough to secure Ulster a vital victory in Bridgend against a gutsy Ospreys outfit.
Henderson had one of his quieter games but had some influential moments with his explosive ball carrying and extra weight in the scrum.
Despite the poor nature of this game Ulster were well worth their victory with the Ospreys firing blanks in attack all evening.
The first 40 minutes were a dreadful advert for the Pro14 with a lack of quality throughout resulting in a 0-0 scoreline at the interval.
Ulster butchered a golden try scoring opportunity with Kernohan spilling the ball forward inches away from the line after some nice build-up play by the visitors.
Ulster finally broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half when McCloskey charged into the Ospreys 22 before offloading to Peter Nelson who was brought down just short of the line by Dan Evans.
The ball was spread wide for McCloskey to finish where he started in the far right-hand corner despite Luke Morgan getting a hand on the ball.
Ulster dominated territory and possession in the second half with the Ospreys struggling to cope with their physicality. But time and time again Ulster’s execution let them down with basic errors undermining the vast majority of their attacking opportunities.
Ulster were held up over the line after their driving lineout was repelled by a gutsy Ospreys effort.
The visitors nearly came to rue their wastefulness as the Ospreys ensured they would have an uncomfortable closing 10 minutes. After some poor discipline from the visitors Ospreys proceeded to lay siege to the Ulster line.
The Ospreys kept edging forward with their driving lineout and just when it looked ominous the visitors somehow managed to turn the ball over to clear their lines.
And with the clock ticking Cooney nailed a late penalty to take the losing bonus point away from the Ospreys.
Scorers: Ulster - Tries: McCloskey 47, Penalties: Cooney 80
Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, Allen, Thomas-Wheeler, Morgan (Giles 12); S Davies, Aubrey; Lay, Baldwin, Botha, Ashley, B Davies, Cracknell, Cross, King. Replacements: K Giles for L Morgan (temp 12- 22), R McCusker for B Davies 54, L Price for S Davies 58, S Otten for S Baldwin 58, R Jenkins for J Lay 58, M Fia for T Botha 58, K Giles for L Morgan 64, R Morgan-Williamd for M Aubrey 78, W Griffiths for L Ashley 78.
Ulster: Nelson; Kernohan, Cave, McCloskey, Ludik; Lowry, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Herring, Moore, O’Connor, Henderson, Ross, Murphy, Timoney. Replacements: T O’Toole for M Moore 60, K Treadwell for A O’Connor 60, S Reidy for C Ross 64, A Warwick for E O’Sullivan 72, R Lyttle for A Kernohan 72, J Hume for M Lowry 74.
Referee: Q Immelman (South Africa)