Celtic League: Friday, January 21Neath-Swansea Ospreys 22 Ulster 21, St Helen'sScorers: Ospreys: Try: Gavin Henson; Con: Henson; Pens: Henson 5Ulster: Tries: Andrew Maxwell, Tommy Bowe; Con: David Humphreys; Pens: Humphreys 3
Ulster's erratic league form continued on Friday night as they were unlucky losers to a Gavin Henson-inspired Ospreys. The Wales international bagged a try, a conversion and five penalties - including the late winner - in a man-of-the-match display.
Ulster's league record for the past two months now reads - won, lost, won, lost - but Mark McCall's charges can count themselves extremely unlucky to have left Swansea with just a bonus point.
Ulster replacement Rowan Frost was adjudged to have been offside by Scottish referee Rob Dickson in injury, and 22-year-old Henson needed no invitation to coolly slot the decisive kick to end the province's hopes at the death.
For Ulster, it was rough justice. They had bossed most of the preceding 80 minutes, with fly-half David Humphreys kicking 11 points - taking his league tally to 61 - and setting up left winger Andrew Maxwell for the northerners' first try on the half-hour.
The Ireland number 10 had originally been the villain of the piece as it was his hurried kick that Henson gobbled up to flash through Ulster's defence for the opening try.
Humphreys - hoping to guide Ulster to just their second victory on Welsh soil in nine visits - levelled with a well-hit penalty before releasing Ballymena's Maxwell for the right corner.
Lyn Jones' side were to lead 13-11 at half-time despite this, as Henson kicked two from two in the remaining minutes, while Humphreys was unfortunate to miss one of his two penalty shots.
Henson's third penalty five minutes after the restart looked to have resettled the Welsh, but Ulster again mounted a comeback with scrum-half Kieran Campbell brilliantly attacking the blindside off a scrum, and avoiding the challenge of Adrian Durston to chip through for young Ireland speedster Tommy Bowe to touch down.
Humphreys converted for 18-16, nevertheless Ulster were denied their seventh win of the campaign as just as he had done before the break, Henson crucially won the penalty duel two-to-one in the closing minutes.
Afterwards, McCall was quick to criticise the performance of man-in-the-middle Dickson.
"The were a couple of things that didn't go our way at the end and we were all convinced that one of David Humphreys' conversion went over as well and those two points would have won the game for us too," said McCall.
"But we should dwell on the positive things as well. The first half we were very positive, which was pleasing given we had a wee dip last week.
"We played on the edge, kicked very well and scored two good tries by Tommy Bowe and Andrew Maxwell. But we lost our way a bit in the second half," he added.
Replacements used: Andy Ward for Feather (70 mins), Rowan Frost for Longwell (71). Not used: Paul Shields, Ronan McCormack, Reece Spee, Adam Larkin, Shane Stewart.
HT: Ospreys 13 Ulster 11; Attendance: 4,142Referee: Rob Dickson (Scotland)