5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
This round 2 game was a tight affair from beginning to end. Tellingly, Ulster showed their class in the final quarter as the Ospreys, coming off the back of their shock opening night defeat in Treviso, appeared to tire.
After a Niall O'Connor penalty in the 32nd minute, all 13 of Ulster's remaining points came in the second period - O'Connor's replacement at out-half, Paddy Jackson, enjoyed a 100% kicking return thanks to two penalties and the conversion of Paul Marshall's all-important try.
The result completed a clean sweep of victories for the Irish provinces this weekend, and moves the Ulstermen up to third in the RaboDirect PRO12 table ahead of their interprovincial derby against second-placed Munster.
Ulster started ambitiously, clearly undaunted by their opponents' status as title holders, with Darren Cave and Luke Marshall orchestrating possession in midfield and Jared Payne only narrowly failing to find Craig Gilroy with a chip towards the line in the fourth minute.
An outstanding long range kick out of his hand by O'Connor four minutes later threatened to put the Ospreys under more severe pressure, but over-complication from Ulster after winning the lineout led to the knock on and the surrender of possession.
Indiscipline from the visitors then saw the concession of three consecutive penalties, but a lack of penetration from the Ospreys meant little ground and no points were gained from their 10-minute spell of possession.
Good sweeping up from Mike McComish, who started in place of Robbie Diack, allowed O'Connor to clear his lines on 20 minutes.
The out-half then had the opportunity to open the Ulster account moments later with an acutely-angled penalty from the right wing, but narrowly missed on the near side.
Ospreys wasted no time from the restart, the South African-born Hanno Dirksen picking up a loose ball outside the Ulster 2 and deftly eluding Cave, Payne and Michael Heaney to touch down after 24 minutes. Welsh number 10 Matthew Morgan added the extras to the winger's try.
Hands in the ruck from Justin Tipuric on the half hour gave O'Connor the chance to atone for his earlier miss, this time from a central position on halfway, and he made no mistake as he reduced the gap to four points.
The Ospreys' performance, however, was ever-improving as the half progressed and only bullish defending by Ulster, with Sean Doyle and Nick Williams particularly brawny in their tackling, kept multiple raids at bay.
An Ospreys infringement just inside Ulster territory in the 38th minute lifted he siege and while O'Connor's long range penalty attempt lacked both the requisite distance and accuracy, it ensured the half ended at the right end as far as Ulster were concerned.
With the Ulster side reinforced for the second period by the introduction of Tom Court and Paul Marshall, an early illegal tackle by James King on the replacement scrum half as he fished the ball out of a maul gave O'Connor the opportunity to go for goal from 45 metres out.
However, O'Connor missed the target and a forward pass from Marshall to Williams straight from the restart handed the initiative back to Steve Tandy's men.
The Ospreys' spell of possession was short-lived as try scorer Dirksen knocked on, but a collapse on the Ulster side in the resulting scrum handed Morgan an elementary penalty in front of the posts which he duly converted to inch the hosts seven points in front once more.
A second penalty was swift to follow, with Doyle pulled up for an indiscretion in the tackle this time, and Morgan again did the needful to make it 13-3 with 53 minutes on the clock.
Multiple changes at this stage brought Stephen Ferris, Andrew Trimble and Jackson into the fray, and the latter was called into action straight away, neatly slotting a testing 45-metre penalty after an Ospreys infringement at a scrum.
Trimble's first contribution was less positive, however, as he was penalised for a collision with Dirksen in mid-air, and the Ireland international was relieved to see Morgan's kick at goal loop wide on this occasion.
With Ulster sensing that the game was by no means beyond them, smart work from the front five after 65 minutes saw the put-in at the scrum reversed in their favour, and another penalty rapidly followed.
Jackson kept his composure to make it two from two, and the Ospreys, fully aware of the danger, launched their most sustained assault of the half from the restart.
Ulster defended superbly to keep them out, eventually forcing replacement out-half Dan Biggar to opt for an unsuccessful drop goal attempt.
The game's turning point came with the clock at 75 minutes. Ulster stormed forward with a superb passage of play spearheaded by replacement lock Neil McComb, and which culminated with John Afoa grounding the ball centimetres shy of the line under a hail of tackles.
But then the alert Paul Marshall picked up and dived over the mound of bodies to score a try which edged Ulster into a one-point lead. Jackson converted to leave the Ospreys requiring a penalty for a draw.
Excellent ball retention from Ulster kept play deep in the Ospreys' half from the restart, and despite the hosts managing to win possession back with thirty seconds remaining, the white Ulster wall hemmed them well inside their 22.
With time up, a loose ball presented itself to try scorer Marshall who gladly punted it high into the stands of the Liberty Stadium.
Two consecutive wins then from two potential banana skins for Mark Anscombe's charges, and an ideal precursor to next Friday's first interprovincial match of the season against Munster at Ravenhill.
|Ospreys Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|