Ulster secure Champions Cup rugby with win over Ospreys

Ulster secure Champions Cup rugby with win over Ospreys

A brace of tries from winger Craig Gilroy helped Ulster secure top-flight European rugby for next season as they beat the Ospreys 35-17 in their Champions Cup play-off at the Kingspan Stadium.

John Cooney also weighed in with 15 points from three penalties and the same number of conversions while Ulster's other tries came from Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell.

The Ospreys, who bagged tries from Alun Wyn Jones, Jeff Hassler and Dan Biggar, now take their place in the Challenge Cup come the autumn.

Biggar hit the upright with a fourth-minute penalty but the Ospreys struck first just before the end of the first quarter when Wyn Jones burrowed under Kieran Treadwell and Robbie Diack to touch down after the Wales and Lions player had won a lineout.

Biggar landed a great conversion from the touchline.

Cooney narrowed their lead with a 25th-minute penalty, though by this time Ulster - already without the injured Rory Best and Iain Henderson - had lost Louis Ludik and Worcester-bound Callum Black to injury.

That left Ulster without four of their starting side, with Charles Piutau - who joins Bristol next season - and prop Ross Kane having gone in the warm-up.

Biggar then hit the upright again with a penalty after 29 minutes.

Six minutes before the break, Gilroy got on the end of a Luke Marshall chip through to dot down and Ulster had the lead 8-7, with Cooney missing a difficult conversion.

Ulster came roaring out of the blocks a minute after the restart when Cooney intercepted a pass and Johnny McPhillips' chip down the right wing saw Gilroy beat Biggar to the touchdown. Cooney's excellent conversion put Ulster 15-7 ahead.

That became 22-7 in the 52nd minute after Ulster attacked off a five-metre scrum with Treadwell driving over and Cooney slotting the conversion.

Winger Hassler then got on the end of a James Hook pass to make the corner but Biggar was off target with the conversion.

Four minutes later, Cooney's second penalty put the home side 25-12 ahead before his third took it to 28-12.

Ulster secure Champions Cup rugby with win over Ospreys

Stockdale then intercepted a Hook pass to sprint in under the posts with Cooney converting, though the Ospreys got over with three minutes left thanks to Biggar who hit the upright for the third time in the game with his drop-goal conversion.

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