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Ospreys strengthen Champions Cup prospects despite Bulls defeat

By PA
(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

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The Ospreys moved a step closer to Heineken Champions Cup qualification despite suffering a 38-31 defeat to the Bulls in Swansea.

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A pair of bonus points mean Toby Booth’s side are now two clear of the Scarlets at the top of the United Rugby Championship’s Welsh Shield, with the winner set to play in the top tier of European competition next season.

The Scarlets play the Stormers in Llanelli on Saturday and now need a win to overtake the Ospreys.

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A hat-trick of tries from centre Cornal Hendricks along with scores from Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith and Canan Moodie got the Bulls over the line. Smith also contributed eight points from the kicking tee.

The Ospreys scored four tries of their own to pick up two bonus points courtesy of Jac Morgan, Luke Morgan (2) and Sam Parry, with Gareth Anscombe kicking 11 points.

It took the Bulls only three minutes to open the scoring, with a couple of powerful carries putting them on the front foot before an accurate pass from Zak Burger allowed Tambwe to touch down.

The Bulls extended their lead when outside-half Smith glided over the line following a period of sustained pressure from the visitors.

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The Ospreys narrowed the gap a few minutes before half-time when Jac Morgan and Rhys Webb charged forward. After a couple of pick and goes by the visitors, impressive openside Morgan burrowed his way over the line for the Ospreys’ first try.

Anscombe added the extras meaning the Bulls turned around with a 13-10 lead at the interval.

But the Ospreys’ momentum got extinguished very early in the second half when former Springboks wing Hendricks sliced through their defence before drawing in the final defender to put Moodie over.

And the 34-year-old was soon celebrating his own try as he showed tremendous pace to run in unopposed from 35 metres out.

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However, the Ospreys refused to throw in the towel and pulled a try back with a terrific finish from flying wing Luke Morgan at the far right-hand corner thanks to a well-timed grubber kick from Anscombe, who converted from the touchline.

Hendricks scored his second try when he brushed aside a weak tackle from George North to take the game further away from the Ospreys.

He then claimed a well-deserved hat-trick after Moodie gathered a loose kick from Michael Collins before releasing the centre, who ran in from his own half.

The result looked like giving the Scarlets added hope of overhauling the Ospreys at the top of the Welsh Shield until the Ospreys struck for two late tries as Parry snuck over before Luke Morgan intercepted a pass to run in unopposed from 60 metres out, meaning only a win will do for Dwayne Peel’s men on Saturday.

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