Ulster recovered from an early Sam Lewis try to overcome a tenacious Ospreys side 10-7 during Friday's PRO12 clash at Ravenhill.
A try from Darren Cave and a penalty from Ruan Pienaar saw a scrappy Ulster secure victory in a turgid and insipid game, played in appalling conditions at a windy Ravenhill.
It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with a try from openside Lewis, before the effort was cancelled out by Cave. The hosts did well to grind out their win, but this was definitely not a game for the purists.
It was the visitors who made the brighter start, driving fiercely at the Ulster defence. The Welshmen showed decent continuity in the first five minutes, dominating possession and territory. The visitors bombarded the home line, and earned their reward on 10 minutes when flanker Lewis touched down for the opening score. Davies converted to make it 0-7 to the Swansea-based side.
The score ignited the home team, with big runners like Lewis Stevenson driving hard at the away defence. Ulster seemed to have replied with a well-worked try in the corner, but Michael Allen failed to ground the ball. The game was very scrappy and fragmented in the first quarter, but Pienaar narrowed the gap on 22 minutes to make it 3-7.
Both sides were perhaps guilty of playing too much rugby under the dreadful conditions; the inclement weather made handling problematic. Ulster reverted to a kicking game in the second quarter of the half in a bid to regain control of the game. But the errors remained for both sides. All in all, it was pretty dire fare.
Ulster were determined to turn in a more productive second half performance. Cave made a good start to the mission when he crossed the line on 43 minutes, having sliced through the Ospreys' defence with a smart dummy and turn of pace leaving prop Duncan Jones clutching at thin air. Pienaar converted to make it 10-7 to the hosts.
The introduction of Irish international Iain Henderson infused his side with renewed impetus. The home side were now playing a much more territorial game through the trusty boot of Pienaar. Henderson seemed to have extended his side's lead on 53, minutes, but referee Nigel Owens disallowed the try.
The match was riddled with errors by this stage. Even the normally unflappable Pienaar was struggling to retain the pill in the rapidly deteriorating conditions. The Ospreys made some inroads through replacement scrum half Tito Tebaldi, but struggled to turn possession into points. Try as they might, they just couldn't create a clear-cut opportunity. The Ulster rearguard hung to, therefore, to secure a vital win. But this dreadful game will not live long in the memory.
Con: PienaarPen: Pienaar
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Michael Allen, 10 James McKinney, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 P Marshall, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Rory Scholes.
Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt (c), 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Perry Parker, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Dan Baker, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Richard Fussell, 23 Eli Walker.
Referee: Nigel Owens
By Rory McGimpsey (@RoryMcGimpsey) at Ravenhill