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Rugby | Pro14

Ulster secure European Champs Cup place



Craig Gilroy scored two tries as Ulster ended a difficult season with a 35-17 win over Ospreys in Belfast on Sunday that saw the Irish province book a place in next season's European Champions Cup.

Ulster's Pro14 playoff victory ensured a return to European club rugby's premier competition while condemning Ospreys to the continent's second-tier Challenge Cup.

Ireland rising star Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell scored Ulster's other tries, while John Cooney kicked 15 points from three penalties and as many conversions.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, fly-half Dan Biggar and Jeff Hassler scored the visitors' tries.

Biggar hit the post with an early penalty attempt before Ospreys opened the score when Jones forced his way over for a try, with Biggar adding a difficult conversion from the touchline.

Ulster, without injured Ireland captain Rory Best and test colleague Iain Henderson, hit back through a 25th-minute Cooney penalty.

Biggar, remarkably, saw a second penalty come back off the post in the 29th minute and shortly before the interval Gilroy scored the first of his tries to leave Ulster 8-7 up at the break.

But following a tight opening period, Ulster surged in front in the second half. Conney's interception and a clever chip ahead by Johnny McPhillips paved the way for right wing Gilroy to beat Biggar in the race for a touchdown. Cooney converted and Ulster led 15-7.

That soon became 22-7 in the 52nd minute, with Treadwell driving over for a converted try before Hassler closed the gap for Ospreys.

Two more Cooney penalties extended Ulster's lead to 28-12 before Stockdale, as he did during Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam campaign, again demonstrated his eye for an interception try by picking off a James Hook pass and running in under the posts.

Ospreys managed a late try but, in his haste to get play re-started as soon as possible, Biggar hit the woodwork for the third time in the match when a drop-goal conversion effort came back off the post.



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