Ospreys 38 Aironi 6
The Ospreys secured a bonus point victory over Aironi at the Liberty Stadium but will be disappointed not to have made more of the huge territorial and possession advantage they enjoyed throughout the match.
Richard Fussell, Lee Byrne and Tommy Bowe all touched down, while there were also two penalty tries thanks to their dominance in the front row, with man of the match Adam Jones in particular shining.
There was real concern over flanker Ben Lewis, who was stretchered off early on with a neck injury, later heading off to hospital to be fully assessed, but his replacement Justin Tipuric shone on his Magners League debut.
There was a late change among the Ospreys replacements, Scottish wing Nikki Walker withdrawing due to tonsillitis, his name sake 18-year old Eli, from Gorseinon, getting his first call into a Magners League match day squad.
The Ospreys were in control of the early stages and didn’t take long to open the scoring, Fussell finishing over a flowing move to score his third try of the season with less than seven minutes gone. It started with Alun Wyn Jones securing good lineout ball on half way and the ball was swiftly moved along to Bowe who punched a hole in the Aironi line before feeding Fussell who saw off the attention of Danwel Demas and Michael Wilson to score, Biggar adding the extras with a difficult kick from the touchline.
It was one-way traffic, with the hosts looking to move the ball through the hands at every opportunity, without being able to find the killer pass to create the scoring opportunity. Indeed, it was Biggar’s boot that moved the scoreboard on 10 minutes later with a penalty after Aironi were caught offside, before Aironi got themselves off the mark a minute later, Riccardo Bocchino with a simple penalty.
With 21 minutes on the clock Aironi were reduced to 14 when New Zealand born Italy international Josh Sole was sent to the bin for tackling Jerry Collins without the ball as the Ospreys looked to receive an Andrew Bishop feed on the 22.
From the resulting penalty they took the lineout option as they looked for a try, only for Fussell to be stopped a metre short. As the forwards arrived to recycle they were penalised for going off their feet. In the melee, Lewis sustained a neck injury and after an eight-minute delay he was stretchered off with his head in a brace.
Once the action restarted the Ospreys were soon back on top, and they extended the lead on the half hour mark, referee Andy Macpherson awarding a penalty try after a series of scrums on the Aironi line were brought down by the Italians, Biggar’s conversion making it 17-3.
Aironi hadn’t shown much as an attacking force, but they did launch a quick counter attack through Bocchino, collecting in his own 22 and outfoxing Biggar before passing to Gilberto Pavan who carried towards halfway before launching it into the Ospreys 22. The bounce beat Shane Williams, but Giulio Toniolatti knocked on as he tried to collect at pace.
With half-time approaching, Bocchino got his second penalty of the night, a long range effort from a central position near halfway just having the distance to bounce off the crossbar and go over.
There was an instant response from the Ospreys, Byrne going over for a well-worked score in the shadow of the posts. The ball was moved well through the hands with Williams heavily involved coming infield before popping the ball out to Byrne who burst through on his shoulder, and there was no stopping the fullback from short range, Biggar bringing the first half to a conclusion with his fourth kick of the night.
HALF TIME: OSPREYS 24 AIRONI 6
The second period began in the same vein as the first had been played out, the Ospreys in the ascendancy but guilty of overdoing it on occasion, the final ball going loose too often for the coaches liking.
Toniolatti then became the second Aironi player of the match to see yellow after foolishly reaching over a ruck to knock the ball out of the hand of Alun Wyn Jones as the skipper looked to pass, right under the eye of the referee.
The Ospreys came close to a fourth try in the 57th minute after they opted to take the lineout instead of kicking for goal after an Aironi offence. They moved the ball from left to right only for Fussell to be halted as he went for the line. It was moved back infield for Ryan Jones, on for Jerry Collins, who looked to bulldozer his way over from close range, only to lose control of the ball as he looked to reach over the line.
Just as Toniolatti re-entered the fray, another Aironi player was heading in the opposite direction, Marco Bortolami seeing yellow after coming in from the side to pinch the ball as the Ospreys threatened on the tryline after a burst from Adam Jones.
From the resulting penalty Ryan Jones thought he had secured the bonus point, dropping on the ball as the Ospreys scrum drove forward over the line only for the TMO to rule no-try.
The Ospreys set-piece was dominant and just a couple of minutes they were rewarded with their second penalty try of the night, the Aironi scrum going backwards at a rate of knots before finally going to ground, Biggar maintaining his 100 per cent record of the night.
With the bonus point secure the Ospreys then put together their best move of the night, Bowe launching a counter attack from his own 22, Bishop and Fussell taking turn to take the ball into the opposite 22 but Mike Phillips, on in place of Nutbrown and looking lively, was unable to collect under pressure.
That piece of action was surpassed minutes later by some lovely rugby that led to the fifth try of the night, Jonathan Thomas running powerfully from half way to burst into space and clever running from Bowe saw him change the angle of the attack, racing over to score. Having replaced Biggar minutes earlier, Gareth Owen then scored with his first kick to make it 38-6.
Before the game restarted, the coaches sent on young Eli Walker in place of Fussell for his senior Ospreys debut, but there was to be no more scoring as the Ospreys saw out the closing minutes.