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Magners League: Penalty count cost Ospreys against Ulster, says Biggar

Ulster spent much of last season reflecting ruefully on lost chances and self-inflicted defeats, often as a result of having conceded too many costly penalties in damaging positions at crucial junctures.

They paid dearly for indiscipline and soft points became a frequent post-match talking point.

By the end of 2009/10, the penny had dropped and the count against Ulster was markedly reduced.

Friday saw further evidence of the improvement. This time it was Ospreys who were licking their sores after a night of self-harm.

Dan Biggar, who produced a perfect goal-kicking performance with four out of four penalties and two out of two conversions — as well as grabbing his team's second try shortly after half-time — said: “Ulster played very well. They've got a great set of forwards and they made life very tough for us.

“But we're disappointed. When it comes down to one point in the game and we've given away 13 or 14 penalties, that's no way to win games away from home.

“As a team we were disappointing in most areas and our discipline was poor, which ultimately cost us the game.”

He added: “We'll look at the video on Monday to see what we can improve on but ultimately, when you give 13 or 14 penalties away in a one-point defeat it's hard to look anywhere else.”

Ospreys skipper Jerry Collins agreed: “Our penalty count was pretty big which was frustrating as we were trying to play some rugby out there.

“Everyone's got to adjust to the new interpretations, but our penalty count was too high. We don't expect to win games when it's that high.”

Ulster have had problems in the past with some of Scottish referee Peter Allan’s interpretation of the game’s laws — in particular those with regard to scrummaging — on this occasion they weren’t complaining. Far from it.

Indeed, coach Brian McLaughlin praised the performance of the former Watsonians-prop-turned-whistler, a classic example of a poacher-to-gamekeeper conversion.

“The last few weeks we’ve had a little bit of difficulty in the scrum but I thought tonight that we read it quite well and in the second half we got better,” he said.

“I thought Peter Allan, to his credit, had a good game. He refereed it well and we had no problem with him tonight at all, which was excellent from our point of view.”

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