Ulster lost against the Ospreys by 27 points to 38.
Despite a scintillating first half of rugby the Red Hand men failed to kick on in the second and a few mistakes and frustrating referee decisions allowed the clinical Ospreys to claim the win and a bonus point.
A subdued Tommy Bowe dotted down for the deciding try with minutes to go to add to the Ulster supporters woe.
Full report below.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief”
As I said above in my spoiler Ulster actually played some exciting rugby in the first half. Power, pace, big hits, explosive drives and exciting offloads all over the place. The move that resulted in Danielli’s try was wonderful to watch with the forwards exchanging intricate passes in confined spaces all done at pace – fantastic.
I’ve always said that Ulster’s forwards are much more attacking with Diack in place and the South African repaid my faith in spades with a breathtaking display of back row finesse putting him head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch – from either side.
The entire team tried their hardest from start to finish and I don’t think there was a single player that didn’t give their all, but here we are again after another home game talking about another defeat. So where did it go wrong?
To me there where two areas where Ulster lost this game, it basically came down to poor decision making on and off the pitch.
On the pitch the first error, in my mind, was early in the first half when Ulster had the O’s scrum under pressure on their line and were awarded a penalty. A more confident side would have went for the scrum again but Ulster opted for the penalty, the resulting three points was not only scant reward for the previous efforts of Ulster, but also let Ospreys off the hook.
Ulster backed down again midway through the second half when they were chipping back at the Ospreys lead. Gough had just been binned and Ulster have a penalty. Instead of kicking to the corner they opt for the posts, again successful, but to me a real cop-out and I think it was this decision that swung the game the Ospreys way.
The off pitch decisions were harder to fathom and, to me, are really more worrying.
It was fairly obvious from early on that Ulster’s forwards were up for this one as they supplied ample ball. Diack provided the link between forwards and backs and the game was begging for a ball handling out half to exploit the opportunities that Ulster were opening up.
Now while Niall O’Connor is a gifted young man with many talents, a fantastic pass, sound defence and terrific boot, I’m sure he would be the first to admit that broken play is not his forte. Why he was not replaced by, one of the best exponents of broken play running, Ian Humphreys as soon as the pattern of the game became clear I will never know. A shocking decision in my opinion.
The second issue is the continued misuse of Rory Best. Once again Rory had given his all by the 50 minute mark and needed replaced as much for his own well being as anything else, but yet again the management fail to act. Both Brady and Kyriacou have performed more than adequately in Rory’s absence this season, both with more wins this season than Best so why the management continue to flog this valuable asset into the ground match after match since his return from his extensive injury is beyond me. To be brutally honest Rory’s line-outs are no great shakes at the minute (one attacking overthrow in the O’s 22 leading to Williams try 2 or 3 plays later) and all three hookers have demonstrated excellent broken play throughout the season, with Kyri probably edging it with his pace.
Both these on field and off field decisions point to a lack of confidence in the squad and it’s something that the management cannot be addressing, for when push comes to shove they have shown little confidence in the squad sticking with their favourites irrespective of performance or results. However what has been the most frustrating has been the lack of ability of the management to assess the game as it unfolds and this has been Ulster’s downfall this season.
Having said all that, Ulster’s last two performances have been a distinct improvement on the two games before that and with a bit of faith in the talented players we have, allied to few Southern Hemisphere bruisers in the pack should put us nearer where we want to be. The question is does McLaughlin have the confidence, belief and ability to take us there?