Video: Victory for Ulster rugby over Ospreys but momentum lost in PRO 14 title race
Guinness PRO14 Rugby: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast: Ulster 21 Ospreys 7
ULSTER lost further ground in their bid to reach the PRO14 final when they defeated the Ospreys 21-7 at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast without being able to secure the bonus-point.
Dan McFarland's side looked out of sorts in the first-half which ended all square at 7-7 before they added two more tries after the break.
But the crucial fourth try proved elusive for the second week in a row and Leinster are now hot favourites to win Conference A reach the decider
McFarland's team got off to a nightmare start when they conceded the opening try of the match with barely two minutes gone.
Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb charged down a kick from Ian Madigan, hacked the ball ahead allowing winger Keelan Giles to touch down for Stephen Myler to convert from under the sticks.
The Welsh side were on top in the early stages and Ulster were forced onto the back foot to successfully defend a line-out maul and regain possession after conceding a sixth minute penalty.
Webb, out of favour with the Welsh selectors, was playing as if he had a point to prove and it took a great tackle from Rob Lyttle to stop him in his tracks from a terrific break down the narrow side in the 14th minute.
Ulster continued to struggle in the first quarter but a great steal from Jacob Stockdale deep in his own half set up a chance but the opportunity was squandered when James Hume lost possession after Mike Lowry had set off on a jinking run.
Very little was going right for the hosts, typified when they conceded a penalty after botching an attacking line-out in the 25th minute.
Credit to the Ospreys though as they continued to force Ulster into errors, preventing the home side from entering their 22 on any occasion in the opening 35 minutes with some excellent defensive work.
That record vanished when Ulster scored a try out of the blue two minutes before the break.
A superb break from Nick Timoney, pouncing on a rare Ospreys mistake, set up John Cooney for a try which he converted himself to tie things up at half-time.
The try came from Ulster's first entry into the opposition 22 and, in truth, they didn't deserve to be on level terms while the Welsh side were left regretting the fact their superiority wasn't reflected on the scoreboard.
Ulster introduced Rob Baloucoune off the bench for Stockdale in the second-half for his first appearance since August when the winger sustained a bad hamstring injury.
The hosts, who started the second period much better, were denied a second try when James Hume's pass to Lyttle, who touched down in the corner, was forward.
But they made amends in the 54th minute when John Andrew went over from close range for Cooney to add the extras and make it 14-7.
The second-half was a mirror image of the first and Ulster's constant pressure was rewarded with a penalty try in the 62nd minute.
Dan Evans was deemed to have knocked on deliberately and was binned after Lyttle was in the act of passing to Baloucoune who had looked certain to score.
Ulster were unable to capitalise on the man-advantage but they were denied the crucial bonus-point try in the 78th minute when Lyttle's score was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy (captain), Nick Timoney.
Replacements : Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Keelan Giles, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Luke Morgan, Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (captain), Gareth Thomas, Sam Parry, Tom Botha, Lloyd Ashley, Rhys Davies, Will Griffiths, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Morris.
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Nicky Smith, Ma’afu Fia, Gareth Evans, Sam Cross, Shaun Venter, Joe Hawkins, Luke Price