Ospreys v Ulster match preview
With their first home game approaching, the Ospreys will be hoping for success on and off the pitch as they aim to secure their first win of the season on Saturday night, and to see if their season ticket initiative to draw in the crowds has worked. A first match slip up will have been disappointing, particularly regarding their discipline and finishing; both were sorely lacking in their trip to Treviso.
Ulster, the visitors, will be looking to add to their hard fought win over Glasgow. They were made to work for their victory, after missed kicks from the returning fly half Niall O’Connor put them under pressure. It was a dogged, unspectacular display but it was one that earned them 4 points, and they will be determined to add to that at the Liberty Stadium fixture.
Neither side will be at full strength and both could argue it is the opportune time to play the other as they miss key players through injury, rest and international call ups; Ryan Jones and Ruan Pienaar being some of the standouts.
The Ospreys will be pleased that their star of the breakdown, Justin Tipuric is back in the starting line-up. Ulster are boosted by the appearance of Paddy Jackson and Stephen Ferris on the bench.
Looking at the line ups, both have gritty forwards and it is one of the rare occasions where it is the visiting side at the Liberty that looks to have the more excitable backs. The Ospreys have gone for a more radical approach of choosing Matthew Morgan at 10. In a game that is likely to be close, where defences will be key, this will either be a gamble that pays off for them, or could cost them the game. Despite Morgan’s obvious talent with the ball in hand, his defence is highly suspect compared to that of Dan Biggar, and is an area Ulster are likely to target.
It will be at the breakdown and centre where the Ospreys will be looking to press their own advantage. They created numerous opportunities out in Treviso but couldn’t convert them, so it will be their key aim to hammer home the points against the visiting Ulster side.
Both teams are very evenly matched, and with the game likely to go down to the wire I feel the bench could have a big part to play, and its Ulster that have the stronger options there. It is a home game though, and the Ospreys are notoriously hard to beat on their own patch and with the return of Tipuric, I think the home side will just edge what could be the match of the weekend.
My Prediction: Ospreys 22 – 19 Ulster
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell 14 Hanno Dirksen 13 Andrew Bishop 12 Ashley Beck 11 Tom Isaacs 10 Matthew Morgan 9 Rhys Webb 1 Ryan Bevington 2 Richard Hibbard 3 Aaron Jarvis 4 Ian Gough
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) 6 James King 7 Justin Tipuric 8 Jonathan Thomas
REPLACEMENTS 16 Scott Baldwin 17 Duncan Jones 18 Joe Rees 19 George Stowers 20 Joe Bearman
21 Kahn Fotuali’I 22 Dan Biggar 23 Tom Grabham
Ulster: 15 J Payne; 14 C Gilroy, 13 D Cave, 12 L Marshall, 11 M Allen; 10 N O’Connor, 9 M Heaney; 1 C Black, 2 R Herring, 3 D Fitzpatrick, 4 J Muller (c), 5 L Stevenson, 6 M McComish, 7 S Doyle, 8 N Williams;
Replacements: 16 N Brady, 17 T Court, 18 J Afoa, 19 N McComb, 20 S Ferris, 21 P Marshall, 22 P Jackson, 23 A Trimble.