The Ospreys produced a thoroughly professional performance to secure a maximum five point haul at the Stadio Il Giglio on Saturday afternoon.
With the bonus point secured in just a little over the half hour the result was never in doubt, but the Ospreys proved relentless as they showed no mercy for their opponents, racking up 8 tries in a comprehensive victory, with Dan Biggar providing a faultless kicking display to score 10 from 10.
Having trained with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday afternoon, Springbok scrum-half Ricky Januarie stepped straight into the starting line-up for his Ospreys debut after signing on an emergency short term loan. Fellow scrum-half Jamie Nutbrown was named on the bench after recovering earlier than expected from knee ligament damage suffered in the region’s previous Heineken Cup clash, against Clermont Auvergne at the Liberty Stadium in October. He was joined on the bench by highly rated 17-year old full-back Tom Prydie.
Viadana had switched the game to Stadio Il Giglio in the town of Reggio Emilia, home of soccer club Reggiana, complete with netting behind the posts to stop missiles, and a moat running along the touchline to prevent pitch invasions.
It was the home side who got the match underway on a crisp Italian afternoon, with the Italian supporters generating a decent atmosphere despite being somewhat lost in their surroundings, but it was the Ospreys who enjoyed the best of the early possession, looking to move the ball through hands at every opportunity and it came as no surprise when Dan Biggar got the first points on the board after 6 minutes, converting an easy penalty from in front of the posts after Viadana defenders failed to roll away after the tackle.
Garry Law then failed to bring the home side level just a couple of minutes later, his lengthy effort drifting to the right after Mitchell had been pinged by referee Romain Poite at the ruck, and then he was unsuccessful from near halfway in the 12th minute.
Viadana paid the price for their missed chances when the Ospreys extended the lead in the 16th minute through an Alun-wyn Jones try. The opportunity came when Viadana skipper Qunitin Geldenhuys was penalised for killing the ball, receiving a yellow card for his efforts. Biggar opted to kick to touch, and from the resulting line-out the Ospreys were able to create space. Biggar’s long pass missed out two players to find Jones out wide and he cantered over to score, the young fly-half adding the extras.
Nikki Walker helped himself to a try midway through the half after a quickly taken free-bick by Januarie on halfway saw the scrum-half really making some distance before offloading to Richard Hibbard on his shoulder. The hooker kept the ball moving to Walker, who was able to force his way through some ineffective Viadana tackling on the 22 to score, Biggar converting.
A great run by Walker that started from within his own half after he received the ball off Hibbard again deserved a score, but he was finally brought down just a few metres short, Tommy Bowe unable to collect his offload. The Ospreys went close again minutes later, Jonathan Thomas spilling the ball a metre short of the line after a powerful forward drive.
The third try eventually came just after the half hour, and it was Januarie debut, enjoying an influential debut who scored it. It was an excellent Ospreys move that went through numerous phases, Andrew Bishop making the initial burst before being hauled down, then Biggar was stopped a metre short. From the resulting ruck, Januarie showed great awareness to dummy before going over unchecked. Biggar added the conversion to make it 24-0. The bonus point was duly wrapped up with five minutes of the first half remaining, and it really was Harlem Globetrotters stuff from the Ospreys this time, with forwards and backs combining well and showing great handling skills before the ball reached skipper Jerry Collins out wide with a clear run-in from 10 metres out. Biggar, enjoying an impeccable afternoon with the boot, was one again successful with the conversion from right out on the touchline, before adding a second penalty of the afternoon to make it 34-0 at the break.
HALF TIME: VIADANA 0 OSPREYS 34
The Ospreys started the second half in the same vein they’d ended the first, Richard Hibbard scoring the fifth try less than three minutes after the restart. Gareth Owen did the damage with a great run from halfway, eventually being stopped by three defenders deep into Viadana’s 22. When the ball was recycled, Filo Tiatia supplied the pass for Hibbard to go over, giving Biggar the easiest of conversions.
The home side then served a real warning to the Ospreys that they needed to keep their concentration levels high if they wanted to keep their line intact, as both Owen and Marty Holah were called on to make last ditch tackles, the Italians keeping the ball alive as they threatened to break through. As the home side enjoyed their best spell, Biggar then had to concede a scrum five, hacking the ball behind as Italian international Kaine Robertson chased a kick-through. The Ospreys were penalised at the resulting scrum, and former Scarlet Gavin Quinnell showed good awareness to take a quick tap penalty, proving unstopabble from close range, Law converting to make it 41-7.
Normal service was soon resumed though as the Ospreys grabbed a sixth try, Owen spotting a huge overlap and sending a massive looping pass out wide to Alun-wyn Jones. The second row went for the line, but as the tackle came in he offloaded to Hibbard who went over, Biggar’s perfect afternoon with the boot continuing.
Tommy Bowe was the next to crossover, the Irish winger showing good hands to scoop up a loose ball from the floor in full stride after a handling error by a Viadana player on halfway before racing away and touching down under the posts, Biggar converting. Just a minute or so later, Bowe was sent to the sinbin after a dangerous tackle on a Viadana attacker.
They made light of their one man deficit though, and helped themselves to another try in the 68th minute, Walker’s run punching a big hole in the Viadana defence before the big Scot freed Owen to go over in the corner for a try that was richly deserved for his excellent all round performance, with the extras once again coming from Biggar.
As the Ospreys made use of their replacements, there were notable introductions, with Huw Bennett making his 100th appearance for the region, and at the other end of the scale, young Prydie making his competitive debut after featuring in pre-season. Ryan Bevington then became the second Ospreys yellow carded, after taking out a Viadana player in the air.
The Ospreys were able to play out the closing stages without too many concerns, although they did have to rely on Biggar to outpace Michele Sepe right at the death, preventing the replacement from touching down as he raced through in pursuit of his own kick.