By Jim Stokes, Irish Examiner
Ulster 9 Ospreys 7: Ulster’s Director of Rugby Les Kiss praised his side’s resilience and character as they clipped the Ospreys wings at the death of an extremely, absorbing Guinness PRO12 top-of-the-table contest at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Welsh visitors had given unbeaten Ulster an almighty scare – they took the lead with an early Nicky Smith try and after Dan Biggar added the extras, they proceeded to build an impregnable barricade.
That was until a minute from the end when with one last Ulster flourish the Ospreys found the wrath of Welsh referee Ben Whitehouse at a ruck, and Paddy Jackson was coolness personified as he knocked over his third penalty to enable Ulster to remain the only unbeaten side in the league.
While Kiss admitted that he believed the better team lost, he thought the never-say-die attitude shone through at the death.
“Internally, we have talked about some of the missed opportunities from last year,” said Kiss of the two narrow home defeats at the hands of Munster and Scarlets last season.
“We have a certain psyche or theme around those type of things. It’s about standing up and being able to make the difference. Thankfully we were good enough to be able to do what we did. Ospreys coach Steve Tandy put together a good game plan and nearly got the money. They will be thoroughly disappointed and I’ve no qualms saying they were the better team in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t guarantee you get the points.”
Kiss continued: “We were happy with our first half. They don’t like playing the ball in their own half. They get the ball up in your half, and then put you under pressure. But the defining thing was their physicality around the breakdown. We couldn’t get traction in the game due to the pressure they put on us. In the second half, we upped the ante and controlled things.
“But the two of the most critical plays of the day was Jared (Payne’s) tackle (on Eli Walker) was superb. It would have been easy to tackle him early, but he just waited until the right time and he forced the issue. The toughness and spirit that we showed against Glasgow last week came through, and then Louis Ludik’s tackle in the right-hand corner was massive for us. He made the difference when it mattered,” said Kiss.
The Ulster boss also explained that Iain Henderson’s late withdrawal was due to an elbow infection which had not responded to antibiotics.
“He should be okay for next week.”
Les Kiss is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.