A brace of tries from Tommy Bowe helped the Ospreys to victory in the West Wales derby at the Liberty Stadium tonight, making it four consecutive wins against their local rivals.
His second try came right at the death to condemn the Scarlets to defeat after a tight game that had seen the lead change hands continuously throughout the match. The visitors defended resolutely to keep the Ospreys at bay for long periods despite the hosts enjoying far more territory and possession throughout the game, the boot of Stephen Jones ensuring the Scarlets remained in contention.
Dan Biggar was handed an early opportunity to open the scoring with a long range penalty attempt in only the 3rd minute. Bizarrely, the breeze blew the ball off the tee as he commenced his run-up, and after checking with French referee Christophe Berdos, he opted to pick the ball up and try his luck with a drop goal from just inside the 10m line which just failed to find the target.
He had more luck five minutes later, calmly slotting over a drop goal from in front of the posts to give his side the lead after strong running from Nikki Walker up the flank had gained the Ospreys some 40m. He fed Andrew Bishop, and when the centre was stopped short of the line the home side patiently worked their way in field through a series of pick and drives until, with the ref signalling advantage, Mike Phillips supplied Biggar to score.
The Scarlets responded instantly, Stephen Jones successfully putting a penalty over from the 10m line after the Ospreys went offside at the ruck, before Biggar restored the advantage with a penalty from similar distance after Mr Berdos spotted some Scarlet hands in the ruck.
The first try of evening went to the visitors with the halfway point of the first period approaching. David Lyons did some excellent scavenging work at the ruck as the Ospreys took their time moving the ball, and when Tavis Knoyle put Rob McCusker through a gap in the home defence the back rower looked certain to score. The Ospreys cover came across to halt his progress, but there was no stopping Jonathan Davies who crashed over, Stephen Jones converting.
As the heavens opened over the Liberty Stadium, the Ospreys were forced into an early change, Richard Hibbard going off injured to be replaced by Huw Bennett.
Despite the change, the Ospreys looked to up the pressure on the Scarlets, and they were rewarded with their first try just after the half hour mark. Awarded an attacking line out inside the visitors 22, the Ospreys took turns to drive forward deeper into opposition territory, Paul James, Mike Phillips and Jerry Collins taking turns to carry, and having sucked in the cover, the ball was spread wide, Lee Byrne coming into the line at pace before offloading to Tommy Bowe who slid over in the corner to score his 12th try in just 17 Ospreys appearances this season.
Biggar's missed conversion meant that the Ospreys lead by just the one point, 11-10, and they were trailing again two minutes later, Stephen Jones' boot making the Ospreys pay for indiscipline in the ruck.
Having dominated possession and territory, if not the scoreboard, the Ospreys did manage to go in at the break with the narrowest of leads, Biggar's penalty after the Scarlets were penalised for collapsing the scrum with 40 minutes on the clock making the half-time score 14-13.
HALF TIME: OSPREYS 14 SCARLETS 13
The Ospreys were back on the offensive straight from the restart and were awarded a penalty on the 22 after a Biggar up and under caused chaos in the Scarlets defence, but the young fly-half's attempt at goal was wayward, leaving just the one point in it.
It wasn't the prettiest of games but it was certainly absorbing stuff, with the game on a knife-edge, and the Scarlets edged back in front through Stephen Jones in the 55th minute after his namesake Ryan was pinged for not rolling away in the tackle.
The response from the home team was to send on Shane Williams and Alun Wyn Jones for Nikki Walker and Ian Gough, and it was Williams who made an instant impact through a typical mazy run which resulted in an Ospreys penalty. Unfortunately, Biggar pulled his effort to the left of the posts.
The Ospreys thought they'd regained the lead when Byrne went over in the corner after taking a knock down off Bowe following a clever cross-kick by Biggar, only for Mr Berdos to rule it out for a push by Bowe on Andy Fenby.
Again, the Ospreys were dominating both territory and possession, and they regained the lead with 12 minutes remaining from Biggar's second drop goal of the night. Showing patience from an attacking line-up, the Ospreys worked their way in field to set up a good position for Biggar, sitting back in the hole, who comfortably slotted over to put his side back in front.
The lead was short-lived though, another Jones penalty handing the initiative back to the Scarlets after the Ospreys went off their feet at a ruck in front of their posts following a great drive from the back of the lineout by David Lyons.
It was end to end stuff and with just four minutes left the Ospreys struck again through Biggar's boot to put them in what they hoped was a match-winning position. However, as you would expect, the Scarlets came straight back at them, and only the outstretched fingertips of Ryan Jones prevented Stephen Jones slotting over a drop goal that would have turned the lead over once again, the Ospreys skipper reading the situation well to charge down the effort, and the Ospreys cleared the danger.
Still there was time for the Scarlets to come again, pushing forward for the winning score, but as Stephen Jones looked to spin the ball left, in stepped Bowe to intercept one handed inside his own 22, and after juggling it he was able to bring it under control and race clear almost the length of the pitch to score under the posts, Biggar's conversion denying the Scarlets even a bonus point.