McCloskey shines and Henderson returns to help Ulster grind out valuable away win over Ospreys

November 20, 2022 0 By JohnValbyNation

Ulster 8Ospreys 0

IAIN HENDERSON MADE his long-awaited comeback with an 80 minute performance as Ulster moved back into the Guinness Pro14 play-off places with a narrow victory over the Ospreys in Wales.

The giant lock has been missing since undergoing surgery on his thumb in December but the sight of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tourist charging around the field would have warmed Ireland coach Joe Schmidt up inside.

Henderson must surely come into consideration for Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome next weekend.

A second-half try from man-of-the-match Stuart McCloskey plus a late penalty from John Cooney was enough to get the Northern province over the line.

As for Allen Clarke’s Ospreys they failed to fire a single shot in what was a shocking attacking performance by the Welsh region.

The Bridgend locals would have found more action at the nearby chapel of rest than at the Brewery Field such was the painful nature of the first half.

Ireland star Henderson got out of jail as he avoided a yellow card for a dangerous neck roll on Ospreys openside Sam Cross.

Cooney kicked a last-minute penalty. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

The Welsh region started brightly and began to pressure the Ulster line through a series of driving lineouts but were kept at bay by the defence.

Ulster butchered a golden try scoring opportunity with Kernohan spilling the ball forward inches away from the line after some nice build-up play by the visitors.

Dan McFarland’s men finally broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half when McCloskey charged into the Ospreys 22 before offloading to Peter Nelson who was brought down just short of the line by Dan Evans.

The ball was spread wide for McCloskey to finish was he started at the far right-hand corner despite Luke Morgan getting a hand on the ball.

Ulster dominated territory and possession in the second half with the Ospreys struggling to cope with their physicality. But time and time again Ulster’s execution let them down with basic errors undermining the vast majority of their attacking opportunities.

The visitors came to rue their wastefulness as the Ospreys ensured they would have an uncomfortable closing 10 minutes. After some poor discipline by the visitors Ospreys proceeded to lay siege to the Ulster line.

Darren Cave leads the Ulster team off the pitch. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

The Ospreys kept edging forward with their driving lineout and just when it looked ominous the visitors somehow managed to turn the ball over to clear their lines.

And with the clock ticking Cooney nailed a late penalty to take the losing bonus point away from the Ospreys.

Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, Allen, Thomas-Wheeler, Morgan (Giles 12); S Davies (Price 58), Aubrey (Morgan-Williams 78); Lay (Jenkins 58), Baldiwn (Otten 58), Botha (Fia 58), Ashley (Griffiths 78), B Davies (McCusker 54), Cracknell, Cross, King.

Ulster: Nelson; Kernohan (Lyttle 73), Cave, McCloskey, Ludik; Lowry (Hume 74), Cooney; O’Sullivan (Warwick 72), Herring, Moore (O’Toole 60), O’Connor (Treadwell 60), Henderson, Ross (Reidy 68), Murphy, Timoney.

Replacements not used: Andrew, Shanahan.

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey break down Ireland’s dogged win against Scotland in Murrayfield, and look at the room for improvement, in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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