The Ospreys scored six tries as they secured a bonus point win at the Liberty Stadium this afternoon
Tommy Bowe helped himself to two tries in his man of the match performance, with Sonny Parker, Gareth Owen, Filo Tiatia and Nikki Walker also crossing, while Dan Biggar added 15 points.
It was a far from perfect performance from the region, with their opponents making life very difficult for them at times, but they will be pleased to have secured maximum points from their two games against the Italians.
Biggar had enjoyed an impeccable afternoon with the boot last Saturday at the Stadio Il Giglio, and he got the scoreboard moving today with a penalty after 7 minutes following an offence in the scrum by prop Ignacio Elosu. The lead lasted less than two minutes though, Garry Law levelling for the visitors after Craig Mitchell was penalised for coming in from the side of a ruck.
Director of Coaching Scott Johnson had spoken ahead of the game about his side’s need to come out of the blocks firing, and although they tried to impose themselves on their opponents in the early stages of the game they were finding it difficult to get any real rhythm or fluidity to their play as the Italians made life difficult for them. With the clock approaching 20 minutes, Viadana had a chance to take the lead but Law’s penalty attempt, from a central position close to the 10m line was just wide of the right hand post.
The breakthrough finally came for the Ospreys in the 23rd minute from Irishman Bowe. Ricky Januarie provided quick ball from the scrum, Biggar carried before finding Bowe as he timed his run to burst through the Viadana defence. Although the covering tacklers tried valiantly to halt his progress, momentum carried the Irish winger over the line for him to ground it, Biggar converting.
The try handed the Ospreys the initiative, and minutes later Biggar opted to kick to touch instead of taking the three points. From the lineout, the pack rumbled forwards some 20 metres before their progress was halted illegally on the line, referee Christophe Berdos sending Viadana skipper Quentin Geldenhuys to the sinbin. The Ospreys kept up the pressure and were duly rewarded when Tiatia picked up at the back of a scrum and drove over from close range to become the oldest try scorer in the history of the Heineken Cup, Biggar’s kick taking the score to 17-3.
Monsieur Berdos prevented Bowe from getting a second try when he penalised the Ospreys for crossing after good work from Andrew Bishop, who was enjoying a fine game in the 12 shirt. A third try did come in the 37th minute, Sonny Parker scoring against his old club after a lovely display of handling and offloading at contact, Biggar starting the move with a darting run before the ball was moved the width of the pitch through the hands, Bishop providing the final pass to the overlapping Parker near the touchline as the Ospreys took full advantage of the extra man. Biggar once again converted, before Law doubled Viadana’s tally with the final kick of the half to make the score 24-6 to the Ospreys at the break.
HALF TIME: OSPREYS 24 VIADANA 6
The important bonus point was secured within two minutes of the restart, Owen going over in the corner for the second week in succession. Biggar started the move with a chip and chase from his own half, the bounce catching out the Viadana defence and allowing Biggar to collect. The young fly-half went for the line but was stopped a few metres short near the corner flag. The Ospreys recycled, spinning the ball the width of the pitch, and it was Januarie’s pass that put the fullback over, the extras inevitably following from Biggar.
The visitors came back at the Ospreys, opting to take a 5metre scrum instead of a penalty as they piled the pressure on, pounding repeatedly on the line. The pressure inevitably told, with Richard Hibbard being sent to the sinbin for killing the ball, and Law duly took three points from in front of the posts.
Ryan Jones replaced Tiatia on the 50 minute mark, his first appearance in an Ospreys shirt since the Cardiff Blues match in October after suffering a back spasm on Welsh duty last month.
Viadana were continuing to make life difficult for their hosts despite the scoreline, and Law added a fourth penalty after an Ospreys hand was spotted interfering in a ruck in the shadow of the posts after Plinio Sciamanna had charged down Biggar’s attempted clearance.
The Ospreys introduced James Hook to the action in place of Parker, with the biggest cheer of the day welcoming Adam Jones when he entered the action in place of Craig Mitchell for his first appearance since damaging his shoulder on Lions duty back in June. They were then joined on the pitch by another returnee, Ian Evans replacing Jonathan Thomas with 15 minutes remaining.
After a prolonged spell of stop-start rugby, the game burst back into life with 10 minutes remaining, a sniping run by Januarie creating the space and his offload to Bowe saw the winger going over for his second of the game, his ninth of the season, Biggar converting.
The visitors never say die attitude saw them getting a late try, and like last week it came from Welshman Gavin Quinnell who intercepted a pass by replacement Jamie Nutbrown, another returning from injury, to charge home unopposed under the posts with Law converting.
It was the Ospreys that rounded off the scoring through winger Walker, who forced his way over in the corner for his side’s sixth try of the afternoon after a sniping run from Nutbrown, Biggar’s conversion ensuring his 100 per cent record with the boot over in the two games against Viadana.