Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Last week, the Ospreys produced arguably the shock of the round with an away win at Edinburgh, so they were chock full of confidence going into the home game against Ulster.
That confidence seemed to evaporate in the first few minutes as after a succession of penalties, Ulster found themselves just a few metres from the Ospreys line. The ball was quickly moved wide, and Stockdale romped over the line untouched as the Ospreys defence bit on the dummy runner. Cooney was successful with the conversion and Ulster led 0-7.
The Ospreys won the next penalty as an Ulster player went off his feet and Myler kicked it to touch but the ball was overthrown, and the chance went begging. With conditions not the best, both sides were reluctant to play expansive rugby and both teams would regularly box kick if there were no opportunities to attack.
Tipuric won a penalty at the ruck as the Ulster player held on and Myler was successful with his shot at goal to make it 3-7 after 21 minutes. Again, neither team could really force an advantage although Ulster had the better of the possession and territory and they were rewarded when AWJ was ruled offside. Cooney split the posts with his penalty shot and Ulster led 3-10 on 31 minutes.
The Ospreys continued to contrive to beat themselves as they made mistake after mistake with Webb particularly guilty of not having his best game. With the half drawing to a close, Ulster were awarded another penalty shot at goal but Cooney’s kick sailed wide but it was the Ospreys with the final score of the half with another Myler penalty deep into added time to make the half time score 6-10.
Ulster started the second half as they finished the first half, continually producing quick ruck ball for their bigger forwards to pound the ball up the field. From a lineout, the Ulster backs moved the ball and despite a hint of crossing made serious inroads into the Ospreys’ defence. Eventually Cooney passed a short ball to Coetzee who crashed over from 5 yards for Ulster’s second try; the big Ulster No.8 being unstoppable from such a short distance. Cooney nailed the conversion and Ulster now led 6-17 after 48 minutes.
From the resulting kick off, the Ospreys won a penalty that Myler attempted to kick to the corner but his radar was off and the ball missed touch by some distance and the chance again went begging, allowing Ulster to clear to touch. Parry and Cracknell departed for Lake and Lydiate to replace them.
The Ospreys won another penalty as another Ulster player went off his feet and Myler kicked it to touch but Lake managed to overthrow AWJ and Ulster were able to clear again on 53 minutes. More replacements for the Ospreys with 1,3 & 9 departing for R Jones, Fia and H Morgan. Could they provide the spark that the Ospreys so desperately needed?
Ulster looked to move the ball from their scrum, but the ball went to the floor and Coetzee was pinged for being offside. Myler stepped up and slotted the penalty kick to make it 9-17 on 57 minutes.
Minutes later, Ospreys won another penalty as yet another Ulster player went off his feet (this happened lots of times but was not always picked up by the referee) and Myler kicked the penalty to touch but before the lineout could be taken the Ospreys were awarded a free kick as Ulster infringed by closing the gap. Myler put up the high ball and the Ulster winger was unlucky to knock the ball on giving the Ospreys a scrum where they won another penalty that Myler successfully knocked over the posts to make the score 12-17 on 64 minutes.
Ulster had a lot of the ball but on their next attack, Madigan kicked the ball straight to touch, so the Ospreys were rewarded with a lineout on the Ulster 22. This was a chance to launch a much-needed attack, but Lake overthrew yet again, and Ulster cleared again. The Ospreys would need a big last minutes if they were to get anything out of the game. Thomas-Wheeler came on at the 72-minute mark for K Williams.
An Ulster scrum saw the backs move the ball through the hands and the Ospreys defence was out-foxed. Protheroe got back to make what seemed like a try-saving tackle but Cooney was awarded the try without the referee even seeing the grounding as Protheroe and Tipuric looked to have held up the Ulster 9. Cooney converted his own try to make the score 12-24 after 74 minutes.
There was an intervention from the TMO on 75 minutes and Henderson, the Ulster captain was shown the red card for a high shoulder charge on Morris at a breakdown. Could the Ospreys snatch the game in the final five minutes?
Unfortunately, the answer was no in spite of two penalties in quick succession deep in the Ulster 22. The last penalty was taken quickly by H Morgan but as the Ospreys battered away at the Ulster line, the defence managed to secure a turnover allowing Madigan to clear to touch. The referee announced that the lineout would be the last play but for the second successive lineout, Lake contrived to underthrow, Ulster were able to turn the ball over and kicked the ball into touch.
This was a game full of Ospreys errors, missed tackles and poor individual and team performance. The Ospreys are crying out for an 8 with the size, skill and carrying power of Coetzee who was named Player of the Match or Stockdale who repeatedly broke the Ospreys defensive line. That is not meant as a slight on Morgan Morris and Dan Evans but merely an observation that the Ospreys need more bulk, more size, and more power across the squad.
The Ospreys have a lot of work-ons for next week as they prepare for the visit to the Liberty of Glasgow Warriors and the Ospreys will likely be without their Team Wales players as they go into Wales camp. The physicality and accuracy has to go up several notches if the Ospreys are to avoid a successive home defeat.