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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Ulster can claim last Pro14 place in Champions Cup

Ospreys have lost on last seven visits to Belfast

Ulster winger Charles Piutau is all about power and pace
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Pro14 Champions Cup place playoff
BBC2 NI & S4C, 3.05pm Sunday

Ulster are the only club who have played in the European Champions Cup every season since its creation in 1995 and they are worth a wager to give up three points to Ospreys and maintain that proud record.

This game is playoff for the final place among the European elite for Pro14 teams.

Ulster have won eight of their 11 Kingspan Stadium league games this season by four points or more, including triumphs over Scarlets, Glasgow and Munster and an 8-0 success over the Ospreys. That was a seventh straight loss for the Liberty lads in Belfast.

Jacob Stockdale, top tryscorer for Ireland in the Six Nations, notched the only try in the last minute of last month's intense meeting but top-notch Kiwi head coach Jono Gibbes' gang dominated from the off and were only denied a bigger success by a sensational Ospreys defensive display.

A repeat of such heroics by the Ospreys would be incredible and while they crushed Connacht early last month on the way to securing fifth spot in Conference B, two other recent successes were over distracted outfits in European kings Leinster and Challenge Cup winners Cardiff Blues. They also lost 37-14 to Zebre in Parma, their ninth away league defeat.

Ulster are without skipper Rory Best and fellow Ireland and Lions forward Iain Henderson because of injury but they have won major home games in their absence this season and key cogs John Cooney and Charles Piutau return at scrum-half and full-back after missing the 24-24 draw at Munster that completed their regular season.

Cooney is the Pro14's leading scorer with four tries in addition to 25 conversions and 30 penalties while livewire former All Black Piutau will become the world's highest-paid player when he moves to Bristol in the summer and will be pumped up to go out in a blaze of glory.

Ulster -3
2pts Evs BoyleSports

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Ulster have won eight of their 11 Kingspan Stadium league games this season by four points or more
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