The Ospreys made it six straight wins over their local rivals at the Liberty Stadium this afternoon, running in seven tries to register a record score-line against the Scarlets.
Man of the match Dan Biggar scored 26 points, including a second half try, while James Hook, Jonathan Thomas, Richard Fussell, Tommy Bowe, Paul James and Jamie Nutbrown also helped themselves to touchdowns, while Hook also two conversions.
Having fallen behind to a Rhys Priestland penalty in the early stages, the Ospreys shifted quickly through the gears to blow their opponents away, securing the bonus point before the hour was up, with the comprehensive win moving them above the Scarlets to second place in the Magners League ahead of the New Year’s Eve game against Cardiff Blues.
Despite the short turnaround following the disappointment of yesterday’s late postponement, the Liberty Stadium was almost full to capacity at kick-off time, ensuring a great atmosphere befitting the occasion.
As the Scarlets started brightly, an early Rhys Priestland run from halfway got the visiting fans off their seats, but a combination of Biggar and Mike Phillips halted his progress just inside the 22.
Priestland did manage to open the scoring with five minutes gone, successfully putting over a penalty from close to the touchline after Marty Holah was caught going in from the side.
The Ospreys struck back well and thought they had scored after stealing a Scarlets line out when Barry Davies raced through to ground a neat Tommy Bowe grubber, only for referee James Jones to penalise Davies for being in front of the kicker.
The scores were level in the 10th minute though, Biggar slotting over a straightforward penalty after it was the Scarlets who were in front of the kicker.
There was handbags on the far touchline after the Ospreys had looked to work an opening for Fussell, Morgan Stoddart eventually penalised for throwing the ball away, presenting Biggar with a simple three points to give his side the lead.
It was a six point lead before too long, Biggar successful from halfway after Jonny Fa’amatuainu was penalised for holding on.
The Ospreys were enjoying the upper hand in the territorial battle, but all too often in the first quarter they handed back initiative to the Scarlets because of their misfiring line out. It was ironic then that the first try of the afternoon went the way of the hosts following an overthrow from Matthew Rees at a Scarlets throw. Marty Holah secured the loose ball, it was recycled quickly and Bowe carried well before feeding Hook on his outside, who was able to squeeze over in the corner despite the attention of Stoddart and Sean Lamont, the TMO confirming the try. Biggar failed with the difficult conversion, leaving the score 14-3 after 25 minutes.
Biggar then kept the scoreboard ticking over with an effort from in front of the posts after Iestyn Thomas penalised at the scrum.
The Scarlets were struggling to get any kind of quality possession with unforced errors hurting them, and as halftime approached more careless hands resulted in an Ospreys scrum on the 10m line. A Scarlets offence led to another Ospreys penalty and once again Biggar was on target.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 20 SCARLETS 3
As was the case in the first half, it was the Scarlets who were the quickest out of the blocks after the restart, but despite patiently working their way through multiple phases they could find no way through the black defensive wall.
They suffered a blow five minutes into the second half when scrum half Martin Roberts was sent to the sinbin after swearing at the referee.
The Ospreys immediately made their numerical advantage pay, the forwards going through numerous pick and drives to suck in defenders to build the inevitable overlap before Holah’s long pass to his left gave Thomas a simple run-in to take the score to 25-3, Biggar narrowly missing the conversion attempt from a difficult angle.
It got better minutes later when Biggar showed good awareness and handling to collect a wayward kick from Priestland on halfway and race through unchecked to score under the posts, adding the extras with the simplest of kicks.
Despite being a man short the Scarlets hit back, winning a scrum against the head – with the apparent use of hands where they shouldn’t have been – and they worked it wide after Lamont had carried well, for Gareth Maule to cross, despite the tackle of Fussell. Priestland’s conversion taking the Scarlets into double figures.
With Roberts back onto take the Scarlets numbers up to 15 again, indiscipline cost them again, Lamont the next to see yellow after a dangerous tackle on Mike Phillips.
The bonus point came the Ospreys way inside the hour, incisive running and quick hands among the backs seeing Bowe, Hook and Nikki Walker all prominent, before Jerry Collins supplied the final pass to Fussell who went over for his 7th try of the season, Biggar converting.
The fifth try came shortly after through Bowe, another flowing move seeing the ball being worked through the backs before the Irishman showed great hands to juggle a difficult ball before turning infield and scoring, Biggar once again successful.
Referee James Jones went to the TMO after the Ospreys drove over from close range after Ian Evans had taken a lineout, his first involvement as replacement, and the score was confirmed for James. With Biggar off, Hook’s conversion took the score to 53-10, a record Ospreys score against their local rivals, eclipsing the 50-24 win at the same venue four years ago.
Evans soon found himself in the bin for illegal use of the boot, but the penalty decision was reversed in the Ospreys favour after Fa’amatuainu retaliated, throwing the ball at Evans in anger.
Some good play from Dan Newton, with a chip and chase over Barry Davies almost saw him get to the line. However, Mr Jones had been playing advantage to the Scarlets and the penalty was awarded just five metres out and the Ospreys were sleeping as Fa’amatuainu tapped and went for a simple try, Priestland’s conversion making it 53-17.
The Ospreys were to enjoy the final word though, a series of penalties in the Scarlets 22 seeing them opt for a scrum each time, until Nutbrown, on for Phillips, was able sneak over from close range, Hook’s conversiom bringing up a round 60 for the hosts, extending their hold on the South Wales Evening Post Challenge Cup to beyond three years.