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'Huge' Stuart McCloskey is Ulster's hero with only try on 100th cap to land crucial PRO14 victory over Ospreys

Ospreys 0-8 Ulster

Stuart McCloskey was Ulster's hero as the province edged to an important victory.
Stuart McCloskey was Ulster's hero as the province edged to an important victory.
Guinness PRO14, Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend 15/2/2019 Ospreys vs Ulster Michael Lowry of Ulster Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Alex Davidson
Guinness PRO14, Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend 15/2/2019 Ospreys vs Ulster Stuart McCloskey of Ulster is awarded his try Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Alex Davidson
Guinness PRO14, Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend 15/2/2019 Ospreys vs Ulster Angus Kernohan of Ulster drops the ball over the line Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Alex Davidson
Guinness PRO14, Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend 15/2/2019 Ospreys vs Ulster Angus Kernohan of Ulster drops the ball over the line Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Alex Davidson
Louis Ludik makes a break at Brewery Field.
Ulster and the Ospreys prepare to do battle in tonight's opening Guinness PRO14 game at Kingspan Stadium (Inpho/Alex Davidson)
Ulster prepare for kick-off at Brewery Field.
Ulster's Stuart McCloskey scored the only try of the game.
Iain Henderson is back in action earlier than expected for Ulster.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Stuart McCloskey was the hero on his 100th Ulster cap as the province edged out Ospreys 8-0 in an attritional game at Brewery Field.

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McCloskey started and finished the move, making a big break and a fine offload to Peter Nelson before being in the right place to provide the finishing touches wide on the right when the ball was recycled.

Coach Dwayne Peel heaped praise on the centre after his man of the match performance.

"He's huge for us," Welshman Peel told Premier Sports. "We had a presentation in there for his 100th cap. He's huge - a great leader for us. He never takes a step backwards and he carries a lot of ball for us. He's probably battered after every game but fair play to him. He's key for us."

Peel also highlighted McCloskey's key pass in the build-up but said he was far from surprised.

He continued: "If you watch him in training, his catch-pass stuff is excellent. He can pass a ball as well as anyone. Showing that in games, people are surprised but they shouldn't be. He's one of the best ball-players in our squad, definitely."

Despite a scoreless first half, Ulster had unquestionably carved out the greater chances.

They would have been ahead at the break had the ball stuck to Angus Kernohan rather than squirming loose as he prepared to touch down. In the visitors' next purposeful attack, a forward pass from McCloskey ended the danger just as the spaces looked to be opening in the defence.

McCloskey more than made amends with the piece of quality that proved the difference between the sides just a few minutes into the second half.

Ospreys did cause some nerves in the final few minutes but a late penalty was kicked successfully by John Cooney, who had earlier missed the conversion, to deny Ulster's hosts a losing bonus point.

There was one downside for Ulster as number 10 Michael Lowry left the field late on after sustaining a big blow to the head. Regardless, he had delivered an impressive performance, dictating play on his first senior outing at fly-half, having previously been used at full-back.

Even though Edinburgh overturned a half-time deficit to beat Dragons, the result is enough to lift Ulster into third place in the Pool B table ahead of Benetton's game at home to Scarlets on Saturday.

Here's the game as it happened:

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