Celtic Cup Quarter-Final: Saturday, April 30Neath-Swansea Ospreys 23 Ulster 16, St Helen'sScorers: Ospreys: Tries: Stefan Terblanche, Matthew Jones; Cons: Jones 2; Pens: Jones 3Ulster: Try: Penalty try; Con: David Humphreys; Pens: Humphreys 2
Skipper Andy Ward ended his ten-year Ulster career on a losing note as the dominant Welsh region booked a Stradey Park semi-final date with Llanelli next weekend.
A brace of late penalties from returning fly-half David Humphreys - who missed the province's last two league games - set up a tantalising final seven minutes with Ulster just 13-9 down, but Lyn Jones' side provided a classy finish.
Fly-half Matthew Jones - a Grand Slam winner with Wales Under-21 this past season - kicked a quick penalty and was on the end of a flowing 79th-minute move, which saw pint-sized Lions call-up Shane Williams involved twice, that ultimately settled the issue.
Ulster did rouse one final cheer as Humphreys converted an injury-time penalty try but for Ward, substitute scrum-half Neil Doak and most probably long-serving lock Gary Longwell too, their playing days finished in disappointment.
Pack members Ronan McCormack and Gavin Pfister will also be playing their rugby elsewhere next season.
The Ospreys - minus Gavin Henson, the scorer of all of their points in January's 22-21 league defeat of Mark McCall's men - took a 10-3 lead into the break, despite an early lion's share of the possession for the visitors.
Humphreys was finding joy with his long range kicking tactics, but the Welsh went closest to opening the scoring on 16 minutes when a superb cover tackle was required from centre Paul Steinmetz to push Richard Pugh out at the right corner.
Nonetheless, the Ospreys went in front just two minutes later when former Springbok favourite Stefan Terblanche gathered his own chip ahead of the retreating Tyrone Howe to touch down.
Jones tagged on the conversion and a well-drilled 40-metre penalty for a 10-0 gap.
Ulster though, replied as Humphreys punished hands in a ruck with his second penalty attempt on 29 minutes.
The kickers missed a further shot apiece at the posts before the break as McCall's side lost prop Rod Moore to a needless yellow card. The tighthead prevented Williams for taking a quick tap penalty by slapping the ball away.
Ulster critically failed to score first on the restart and it took a full 23 minutes before Jones restored the Ospreys' 10-point lead with his second penalty.
Humphreys' two quick-fire penalty shots on 71 and 73 minutes rallied the champions' cause but man-of-the-match Jones pushed the home side 23-9 up at the death as Williams offloaded ahead of Steinmetz for the young number 10 to beat substitute full-back Paddy Wallace for the line.
Ospreys: Adrian Durston; Stefan Terblanche, Andrew Bishop, Elvis Seveali'i, Shane Williams; Matthew Jones, Jason Spice; Paul James, Barry Williams (Capt), Andrew Millward, Brent Cockbain, Jonathan Thomas, James Bater, Richard Pugh, Ryan Jones.Replacements used: Steve Tandy for Pugh (50 mins), Duncan Jones for James (52), David Bishop for Bishop (58), Richard Mustoe for Durston, Shaun Connor for M Jones, Richard Hibbard for B Williams, Lyndon Bateman for J Thomas (all 80).
(15) Bryn Cunningham(14) Tommy Bowe(13) Kevin Maggs(12) Paul Steinmetz(11) Tyrone Howe(10) David Humphreys(9) Kieran Campbell(1) Simon Best(2) Paul Shields(3) Rod Moore(4) Gary Longwell(5) Matt McCullough(6) Andy Ward (Capt)(7) Gavin Pfister(8) Roger Wilson
Replacements used: Rowan Frost for Longwell (49 mins), Andrew Maxwell for Howe (52), Campbell Feather for Pfister (56), Paddy Wallace for Cunningham (60), Neil Doak for Campbell (66), Ronan McCormack for Moore (67), Rory Best for Shields (73).
Sin-bin: Rod Moore (Ulster) (36 mins), Brent Cockbain (Ospreys) (84)HT: Ospreys 10 Ulster 3; Attendance: 5,273Referee: Andrew Ireland (Scotland)