The Runner Sports

Dan Evans Helps Secure Ospreys’ Playoff Dreams

Man of the Match Dan Evans gives Ospreys edge they need to nearly secure playoff spot.

Ulster rugby traveled to Wales this weekend to take on Ospreys in a battle to decide one of the remaining spots for the Pro 12 playoffs. Ospreys entered the match in fourth place only one point ahead of Ulster. Both had been working off of a run of mixed results. Ulster entered winning two of their last four matches, featuring a 24-point draw to Cardiff and a two-point loss to Munster. Ospreys, however, entered the match on a four-game losing streak, including a loss to Benetton Treviso. The stakes were high for what was a classic match of the season.

Poor Ulster discipline early gives the Ospreys opportunity.

Ulster started off the match with Charles Piutau recovering the kickoff, but penalties allowed Ospreys to clear the ball from their end multiple times. Ospreys gained ground across the pitch through mistakes by the Ulster defense, allowing the Ospreys to travel from lineout to lineout. Nicky Smith was the first player for the Ospreys to break across the line, but was held up. On the following scrum, Ashley Beck offloaded to Tom Habberfield for Ospreys’ first try of the day.

Both teams settled into a defensive battle that resulted only in each team trading kicks until late in the first half. Near the forty-minute mark, Paddy Jackson kicked away, but Dan Evans recovered and charged headlong into the Ulster defense. Evans broke through the line and after a couple of passes the ball made it to Tyler Ardron who got across the line for a try to finish out the half.

Ulster’s disarray offensively stops try scoring opportunities in the second half.

Ospreys started the second half as strong as the first and were able to drive forward assisted by another Dan Evans line break which took them right to the try line. In the following phases, Luke Marshall intercepted a pass. Instead of running with it, Marshall kicked poorly and the ball went into touch giving Ospreys the ball back inside the Ulster half. Ulster had many opportunities over the course of the match, but were never able to capitalize until the match was out of reach.

Ulster finally began building quality phases, using their large forwards to punch holes in the Ospreys defense. The Irish side did not have enough push to get across the line and ended up turning the ball over on a subsequent penalty. Ulster visited the Ospreys 22 five times early in the second half with no points to show for it.  Neither team was able to make much progress attacking until the final minutes of the match.  Ospreys’ Kieron Fonotia was able to break the stalemate as he drove to the line. He then released to Brendon Leonard who put the match out of reach for Ulster with less than three minutes to go.

Ulster refused to finish without a try, as Jacob Stockdale gathered the restart and sprinted down the field. He was able to avoid tacklers and reach the Ospreys’ end for a great personal try.

Ospreys-24, Ulster-10

Ospreys dominance well-timed, and necessary.

The second half showed little offensive production by the Ospreys. It was not necessary, though, as their defense was so strong. Ulster were dominant in field possession, with 66% of the second half spent inside the Ospreys’ half. The Ospreys’ defense was strong enough to stop any points, though, until the final minute. Dan Evans had an amazing performance with well-timed line breaks that allowed the Ospreys to hold the lead. Dan Biggar had an impressive day as well with 100% kicking on the day. His performance was not perfect though as he did have some penalty issues in the middle of the match. The Ospreys make their semi-final place all but assured with this win. Ulster are still searching and is very unlikely that they will be able to make it this year.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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