Scarlets 16 – 23 Ospreys
It was an emotional night at Parc Y Scarlets, first for the moving tribute for Nevin Spence and his family who so tragically lost their lives in a farming accident, and secondly when derby emotions were ramped up to the max.
As predicted, the match turned out to be close, nervy and tense with the Ospreys pack doing their utmost to smother any possession the Scarlets had, led by Duncan Jones who played his best game for seasons. With Biggar peppering the home side with pin point up and unders and an unusual amount of Scarlets handling errors, momentum was with the visiting side for the majority of the first half.
It was a bruising encounter, with the Ospreys getting the best of the possession, yet a hardened Scarlets defence, and limited creativity in their backline could see them do nothing with the ball in hand. The home side looked much the better with what little possession they had, and the clear try scoring chance of the first half came from them as the ball was fed in a sublime backline move for wing Fenby to cross.
However a swinging forearm smash to the face saw Fenby drop the ball as he crossed the line. The referee, his assistance and the TMO all missed this act of foul play and the Ospreys were awarded a scrum from the knock on and were soon making a move back into the Scarlets’ territory.
The one thing that separated the sides going into half time was missed kicks with the Ospreys leading at the break 9-6.
The second half continued much the same as the first, with plenty of niggle and off the ball skulduggery . Time and again the Scarlets’ forwards worked their way up the pitch to earn a penalty, but they were not rewarded for their efforts as Priestland’s boot was once again wayward.
The Ospreys finally showed a glimmer of a backs move that saw Dirksen crossing in the corner, but it was called back for a forward pass, and it seemed going into the 71st minute, with the score tied at 9-9 that this match was to go down to the wire.
The Scarlets had previously withstood a period of ten minutes down to 14 men after a baffling decision to sin bin replacement tight head prop Samson Lee for apparently collapsing a scrum. They’d shown grit, discipline and determination not to concede points in those minutes, yet going into the last 10 minutes of the game, fatigue was starting to show after such a huge defensive shift.
Enter Ryan Jones who was back to his dastardly best. In the space of two minutes he stopped Scarlets’ quick ball on his own five meter line, escaping a card, before finishing off a brilliant forwards move from the Ospreys to go crashing over for a try of his own in the right corner. Biggar converted.
The home team looked stunned by the try and the Ospreys took advantage to cross over for another quick try by Dirksen. Again it was converted. Going into the 76th minute of the match, the score was 9 – 23.
The home side’s supporters were rewarded somewhat for their efforts to cheer on their side as the Scarelts refused to give up. Again showing their superiority in the backs they managed to work their way down field where a clever kick through from Priestland allowed George North to touch down the ball spilled from Grabham for a try. Priestland crucially converted to provide the Scarlets with an all- important losing bonus point.
The Ospreys were deserving winners on the day, with the majority of the possession and with a pack that could starve the more creative side of possession. What is a worry though is how numerous incidents of off the ball foul play went unpunished by the officials. With tactics that were so clearly working, it is a wonder why they felt the need to lower themselves to that level.
The Scarlets will feel disheartened from that game for not taking the chances at points that their forwards worked so hard for. Their pack may have been dominated for the most part, but they dug in and worked themselves into positions to win the match, yet heartbreakingly for Scarlets fans, they couldn’t be converted.
Scarlets still sit top of the table, and with clear signs of things to work on, they will hope to improve going into the next round. The Ospreys have finally clinched their first win of the season and for them it’s a big one. Going forward they will now hope they have the confidence to provide the performances consistently that they are so clearly capable of.
Man of the Match: Duncan Jones
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Scarlets: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Andy Fenby; Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle; Phil John, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, George Earle, Richard Kelly, Aaron Shingler, Rob McCusker (capt), Josh Turnbull.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Peter Edwards, Samson Lee, Sione Timani, Johnathan Edwards, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas,Gareth Maule.
Ospreys: Richard Fussell; Hanno Dirksen, Tom Isaacs, Andrew Bishop, Tom Grabham; Dan Biggar, Kahn Fotuali’i; Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Ian Evans, George Stowers, Joe Bearman, Justin Tipuric.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Ryan Bevington, Joe Rees, Jonathan Thomas, Ryan Jones, Rhys Webb, Matthew Morgan, Jonathan Spratt.