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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Ospreys soar on debut
CELTIC LEAGUE
Paul James takes on the Ulster defence
Ospreys (16) 41
Tries: D Tiueti, A Durston, G Henson (2). Cons: S Connor (2), Henson. Pens: Connor (4), Henson.
Ulster (21) 30
Tries: S Stewart, R McCormack, A Ward. Cons: P Wallace (3). Pens: Wallace (3). Att: 4,250
The Neath-Swansea Ospreys began the regional era in Welsh rugby with a thrilling win over a strong Ulster side at the Gnoll.

The home team trailed 21-16 at the break, with Ulster running in three breakaway tries against a disorganised defence.

But Lyn Jones' side rallied in the second half to claim the win and a bonus point for scoring four tries.

Wales discard Gavin Henson stole the headlines with two tries and 15 points after coming on for Shaun Connor as a 60th-minute replacement.

It was the brightest of starts for the new region, a forward drive in the second minute presenting excellent ball to a fired-up Scott Gibbs.

The former Swansea man sucked in the defence before delivering the try-scoring pass to Neath old boy Dave Tiueti, who went in under the posts.

The home side were rampant for the first 10 minutes, but over-confidence saw Andy Williams fling out a wild pass, which was eagerly seized on by the visitors.

Excellent inter-play saw the ball out to lock Rowan Frost who did well to deliver the scoring pass to Shane Stewart for a 70-yard try.

The Irish were shaking off their early season rustiness and a concerted attack from deep in their own half had the Ospreys defence wobbling.

We gifted Ulster 21 points - they didn't pose us any threat
Ospreys coach Lyn Jones
The ball was recycled and fed along the line for supporting prop Ronan McCormack to fall over the line.

With the visitors looking solid in the tight and Paddy Wallace directing well from fly-half, things were looking ominous for the Ospreys.

An Andy Williams break looked like closing the gap for the home side, but the ball was ripped from him in the Ulster 22.

Again showing the instinct for the counter attack, Ulster quickly fired back, feeding captain Andy Ward who injected a remarkable turn of pace to sprint in with another 70-yard run.

Three Connor penalties and two shocking misses from Wallace kept the Welsh side in contact at the break, 16-21.

The Ospreys proved swift out of the block again in the second half, Andy Williams making a break, James Bater winning the ball on the floor and Adrian Durston blasting through a weak Neil Doak tackle to put the home side back in front.

A further Connor penalty extended the lead and led to the first fledgling shouts of 'Ospreys' ringing around the Gnoll.

Summer signing Elvis Seveali'l, who had looked dangerous all night, set up the third home try, breaking a tackle on the left but being held up just short.

He fed inside to substitute Henson who was driven over by the forwards.

After a free-flowing 65 minutes, nerves began to hit both sides with the finishing line in sight, and a kicking duel ensued.

Wallace fired over two more penalties against one from Henson, but with the clock ticking down a Gavin Thomas burst took the Ospreys close to the visitors' line.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Lyn Jones' men battered away in search of the clinching score, Henson winning the bonus point after taking a short pass from Gibbs.

Ospreys captain Gibbs was in bullish mood after the win: "We were the team out there playing all the rugby," he said.

"It could have been 40-0 out there if it wasn't for our mistakes - we're buying into this regional rugby."

Gibbs' views were endorsed by coach Lyn Jones who added: "We gifted Ulster 21 points - they didn't pose us any threat."


Neath-Swansea Ospreys: Adrian Durston; Dave Tiueti, James Storey, Scott Gibbs (capt), Elvis Seveali'l; Shaun Connor, Andy Williams; Paul James, Barry Williams, Andrew Millward, Andy Newman, Luke Tait, James Bater, Nathan Bonner-Evans, Richard Pugh.
Replacements: Gareth Morris, Gavin Henson, Ricky Richards, Chris Wells, Gavin Thomas, Lyndon Bateman, Adam Jones.

Ulster: B Cunningham; S Young, R Constable, S Stewart, T Howe; P Wallace, N Doak; R McCormack, M Sexton, R Moore, G Longwell, R Frost, A Ward, N Best, R Wilson.
Replacements: P Shields, B Young, M Mustchin, N McMillan, K Campbell, A Larkin, S Mallon.

Referee: Gregg Davies (Scotland)




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