Scarlets 18 Ospreys 21
The Ospreys made it five wins on the bounce against their local rivals on a nailbiting evening at Parc y Scarlets.
Richard Fussell and Alun Wyn Jones scored the only tries of the game, but it was a late Dan Biggar drop goal that proved the difference after his opposite number Stephen Jones had kept the Scarlets in the chase with six penalties.
There was a sizzling atmosphere ahead of kick-off at the almost sold-out Parc Y Scarlets, with the sizeable Ospreys contingent in the crowd making themselves heard amongst the din.
As you’d expect on such an occasion there was a frenetic start to the game, and the Scarlets were handed a chance to take the lead inside the first two minutes when Paul James was guilty of interfering with the ball on the floor, only for Stephen Jones to miss the target from a central position on the 10m line.
The hosts were eager to make an early impression and Jones duly atoned for his early miss after Jerry Collins was penalised for not rolling away, slotting the penalty over in the fourth minute to put his side in front.
The lead lasted just three minutes, Dan Biggar opening the Ospreys account after a poor clearance from former Osprey Tavis Knoyle caught George North in an offside position under the new law interpretations.
Lee Byrne came to the Ospreys rescue in the 14th minute, putting in a crunching hit on Sean Lamont seven metres from the line as the big Scot gathered a clever Stephen Jones chip and looked to power in, the Ospreys fullback putting him into touch.
It was fast, it was frenzied, it was physical, and Biggar then had to tidy up in front of his own posts after Lou Reed charged down Byrne’s clearance on the 22.
The Scarlets had dominated possession and territory in the opening quarter, and with 22 minutes gone, Stephen Jones was able to restore his team’s lead with a long-range effort after an Ospreys offence in the scrum.
As had been the case in the opening minutes though, the lead was short-lived, Biggar scoring from halfway after Josh Turnbull went off his feet at the ruck.
The response from the Scarlets was a positive one, patiently working their way upfield through more than 10 phases to win a scrum 5 metres out. With quick ball secured, Stephen Jones looked to burst through the smallest of gaps, only for Mike Phillips to put in a big hit, forcing him to knock on agonisingly close to the line. However, the Scarlets fly-half was able to edge his team back in front a minute before the break with a simple penalty, Collins coming in from the side.
HALF TIME: SCARLETS 9 OSPREYS 6
Having felt that they should have gone in at half time with a bigger lead, the Scarlets were flying out of the blocks at the start of the second period and duly extended their lead within 90 seconds, Stephen Jones again successful after Ian Gough had obstructed Knoyle.
The Ospreys struck back in some style with their best move of the match, good hands in midfield from Andrew Bishop and Paul James freeing Byrne who carried well before his pass found Richard Fussell out wide. The winger ignored claims of a forward pass to race over for his fourth try in five games this season, grounding under the posts to allow Biggar a simple conversion to put the Ospreys ahead for the first time.
Stephen Jones was able to nudge his side back in front three minutes later, before Knoyle played himself into trouble trying to run it out from behind his own line only to have his progress halted by a thunderous hit from Collins. The Scarlets pack was able to survive intense pressure in the resulting scrum to allow Stephen Jones to clear.
It was an absorbing game and the Scarlets were again fortunate to survive a real scare, Turnbull opting to take a quick lineout to Dan Evans whose clearance from inside his own 22 was charged down by Marty Holah, who was just beaten in the race to ground the ball by Scott Williams.
For the first time all game the Ospreys were in the ascendancy and the second try came in the 57th minute, the ball being worked wide at pace by the men in black, Tommy Bowe providing the scoring pass to skipper Alun Wyn Jones who did well to ground it under pressure, the TMO confirming that he had avoided being pushed into touch. Biggar’s conversion attempt from the touchline struck the left upright, leaving it 18-15 to the Ospreys with a quarter of the game remaining.
The scores were level eight minutes later through the sixth Stephen Jones penalty of the evening after an Ospreys tackler was pinged for not releasing.
A see-saw game swung back the way of the Ospreys when Biggar slotted over a simple drop goal from in front of the posts to make it 21-18 with seven to go.
There was time for a late Scarlets rally, and King won a penalty that handed the Scarlets a late opportunity to level, only for Stephen Jones to pull his effort wide of the left upright, allowing the Ospreys fans in the crowd to celebrate a third win in three visits to the Scarlets new home.