Ospreys 32-15 Northampton: Struggling Saints fall again
Last Updated: 17/12/17 6:34pm
Replacement scrum-half Rhys Webb scored twice as Ospreys completed a European Champions Cup double over struggling Northampton with a 32-15 bonus-point victory at a wet Liberty Stadium.
Ospreys, who backed up their 43-32 success at Franklin's Gardens in the last round, have given themselves a fighting chance in Pool Two but will need to secure wins over Saracens and Clermont in the New Year.
The path to victory was paved through tries from prop Dmitri Arhip, Webb and the returning Justin Tipuric, with 12 points coming from the boot of Sam Davies.
After finding themselves 11-0 down at the break, Northampton - without the England pair of Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes - rallied briefly through a Harry Mallinder try and a penalty from Piers Francis, before Ulster pulled away again to render Reece Marshall's late try was inconsequential.
Ospreys made an imposing start, scoring the game's opening try after two minutes when prop Arhip finished off a move started close to halfway with a break by Ben John and a weaving run from Tom Habberfield after good link work from Tipuric.
Northampton looked sure to score soon after having moved the ball from a line-out but Mallinder knocked on in the tackle with Ahsee Tuala free outside.
Saints then had two goes at a drive from a line-out and got pushed back by Ospreys before the home side earned a scrum penalty and were able to clear their lines.
In the 24th minute, Ospreys extended their lead to 8-0 with a 45-metre penalty for Davies after Saints had been caught with hands in a ruck.
That became 11-0 five minutes later as Davies found the target with a second penalty after Saints were penalised at another scrum.
Saints tried to respond in the latter stages of the half but the Ospreys' defence was too good.
Still, the pendulum swung back Northampton's way after the break and they cut the deficit to only three points as Webb, on at half-time, was caught in possession in his 22 and Mallinder crosses after a kick from Francis, who failed with the conversion attempt.
Four minutes later Francis kicked a penalty goal from in front of the posts after the home side infringed at a ruck.
That was as close as they got though, as some patient build-up put Ospreys back in charge with a try from Webb in the 56th minute - Davies' conversion giving the hosts a 10-point lead.
And they put the result beyond doubt with two tries in the space of three minutes.
In the 66th minute, a break by Dan Evans saw Owen Watkin put Tipuric over, with Davies' conversion extending the home lead to 17 points before Webb dived over following another concerted attack.
Davies' conversion made it 32-8 with 10 minutes remaining, leaving time for Marshall to squeeze over for a second Saints try, converted by Mallinder.