Cave double sees Ulster edge Ospreys

Date published: November 21 2014

Darren Cave scored two tries to help Ulster beat Ospreys 25-16 in a closely-fought Pro12 clash at Ravenhill on Friday.

Darren Cave scored two tries to help Ulster beat Ospreys 25-16 in a closely-fought Pro12 clash at Ravenhill on Friday.

An opportunistic brace from Irish international Cave, along with a try by Franco van der Merwe, saw a jittery Ulster overcome a tenacious Osprey side.

Ulster had been well on top at the end of the first half, with their tries being supplemented by two Paddy Jackson penalties, but fell victim in the second period to a splendid Ospreys’ comeback.

The visitors responded purposefully with an excellent try by the superb Martin Roberts, and three penalties from metronomic fly-half Sam Davies, but just couldn’t quite edge ahead of their opponents. In the end, the Irishmen probably just about shaded it, but the Ospreys gave certainly them one hell of a fright.

It was Ulster that made the superior start, and the home side managed to exert pressure on the Ospreys’ scrum in the first couple of minutes, with Callum Black performing impressively opposite Dmitri Arhip. It was the hosts, therefore, who opened the scoring on 10 minutes when Cave picked up, and drove over the try line from a couple of yards out.

The try was a just reward for Ulster’s efforts, as the men in white had patiently built phases in the Ospreys’ half. Jackson converted to make it 7-0 to the hosts.

With the rain pouring down over Ravenhill, the ball was very greasy, and both sides thus struggled to retain possession.

Despite the rather fractured nature of the game, the Irish side was dominating, and Jackson bagged another three points on 20 minutes after Ospreys’ open side Sam Lewis was penalised for entering a ruck from the side. Ulster were now 10-0 to the good, and were well worth their lead.

The Welsh visitors were struggling to achieve much fluidity in their game, and by the end of the first quarter, the Ospreys had rarely ventured into Ulster’s 22. And on the rare occasions they did trouble Ulster’s red zone, the Welshmen invariably turned the ball over.

The hosts turned the screw tighter on 31 minutes when Jackson nailed another penalty after the visitors went off their feet at the breakdown.

But the hosts will be frustrated by their efforts at the ensuing restart, where they, in turn, were penalised by Neil Hennessy for infringing at the breakdown.

Davies got his side on the scoreboard with the resultant penalty to make it 13-3 to the hosts.

The Welshmen now had a tentative foothold in the game, but they were being frustrated by their travails at scrum time, where Ulster were quite ascendant. And the Irish province hammered home their advantage on the cusp of half time, when van der Merwe was the beneficiary of further good work by the Ulster pack.

The hosts launched a series of driving mauls in the Ospreys’ 22, and with the visitors’ defence retreating, the big South African lock managed to get over for Ulster’s second try on the 39 minute mark. Jackson missed the conversion to leave the score 18-3 at the interval.

The Ospreys made an excellent start to the second half, and on 43 minutes, Roberts touched down after his pack steamrolled Ulster with a superb maul. Davies converted to reduce Ulster’s lead to 18-10.

The increase in intensity from the Welsh region was palpable; with scrum half Roberts particularly impressive. Davies then closed the gap to five points on 59 minutes when he landed another penalty after Ulster were penalised at scrum time.

The momentum had undeniably shifted towards the Welsh team, and Ulster were losing control of a match they had dominated in the first half.

Perhaps even more worrying for them, the Ospreys were winning the greater number of penalties. One such infringement afforded Davies a chance to reduce the deficit to two points on 60 minutes, and the prolific fly-half made no mistake with his kick to make it 18-16.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, it had become an extremely nervy affair, with Ulster desperately clinging on, and the Ospreys battling for the win.

With the game in the balance, it was Ulster who seized the momentum by stringing together some phases in the Ospreys’ 22.

And the relentless pressure paid dividends on 78 minutes when Ulster hero Cave squeezed over for his second try. Humphreys converted to seal the win for Ulster, whilst simultaneously denying the Ospreys a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Cave 2, Van der Merwe
Cons: Jackson, Humphreys
Pens: Jackson 2

For Ospreys:
Try: Roberts
Con: Davies
Pens: Davies 3

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson (c), 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Peter Nelson.

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 James King, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Lloyd Peers (c), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Ifereimi Boladau, 21 Ieuan Jones, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Hanno Dirksen.

Venue: Ravenhill<
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)Television match official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

By Rory McGimpsey