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Edinburgh 23 Ospreys 13

The Ospreys failed to secure even a losing bonus point as Edinburgh's Gregor Hunter kicked 15 unanswered second half points at Murrayfield.

A Matthew Morgan try at the end of the first half had seen the Ospreys go in at the break with a three-point lead, but they failed to register a solitary second half point as Edinburgh wrestled the initiative away from them.

Heavy rain an hour or so before kick-off had left conditions very greasy as the contest got underway leading to some early handling errors from both teams as they got to grips with a cold and damp Edinburgh evening.

After a quiet opening period, the game sparked into life 13 minutes in when Morgan read Stuart McInally’s pass in midfield to intercept on his own 22, racing upfield into Edinburgh territory, only for former Osprey Richie Rees to halt his progress with a good ankle tap.

The Ospreys took the lead a minute or so later, Morgan with the penalty after Rees was guilty of preventing his opposite number Rhys Webb from taking a quick throw close to Edinburgh’s 22.

Rees was at the centre of everything it seemed, and he had to be alert to prevent Tom Isaacs getting on the end of his own chip ahead after the Ospreys backline had managed to put the ball through the hands for the first time.

Edinburgh responded with a period of sustained pressure that ended with Hunter levelling after hands in the ruck from Owen Williams.

As the half hour approached the Ospreys would have been disappointed with their execution having shown incredible patience to work their way forward to within two metres of the Edinburgh line, going through 27 phases before turning it over with the tryline beckoning.

However, Rees’ clearing kick was loose, allowing the Ospreys to come straight back at them, and when Dougie Fife was penalised for not releasing in the tackle Morgan nudged his team ahead again from 40m out.

Just two minutes later Edinburgh took the lead with a try from tighthead Willem Nel. Good lineout ball allowed the hosts to launch an attack up the right touchline, Greig Tonks and Fife combining well before Rees fed Nel who crashed over from close range. Hunter’s conversion attempt squirmed horribly off target, leaving the score at 8-6 to the Scots.

The Ospreys were stung into action and regained the lead almost straight away, Morgan grabbing his first team’s first try of the night. The spark came from scrum-half Webb’s charge down of an attempted clearing kick from Rees on the Edinburgh 22, second row James King securing the loose ball. It was spun out wide where Isaacs tried to barge his way through, to no avail. With the home defence in disarray the ball was moved back infield, Andrew Bishop’s offload leaving the young fly-half with a simple finish. Morgan then picked himself up to convert, leaving the Ospreys five points to the good at the break.

HALF-TIME: EDINBURGH 8 OSPREYS 13

Within three minutes of the restart tightead Williams, making his PRO12 debut, was sent to the sinbin after the scrum went down. Hunter’s attempt at goal was off target so the five-point lead remained intact although the Ospreys were temporarily down to 14 men.

The Edinburgh 10 had another go just a couple of minutes later after replacement tighthead Nicky Thomas was pinged at the next scrum, and this time Hunter was able to reduce the deficit to just two points.

With the numerical advantage Edinburgh were looking to turn the screw and a scything run by Fife saw him split the Ospreys defence, carrying up to their 22. Having ignored an overlap on the left, allowing the Ospreys cover to scramble, the hosts switched play to their right and their coaching team would have been frustrated to see John Houston dropping what seemed a straightforward pass as they looked to stretch the opposition.

With the Ospreys setpiece under pressure it was Ryan Bevington who was penalised at the next scrum, allowing Hunter to put Edinburgh a point ahead, his kick just scraping the post on its way over.

Restored to the full 15, the Ospreys were still unable to make any real headway and an offside against Sam Lewis allowed Hunter to slot over another successful penalty, taking the score to 17-13 just short of the hour.

An unforced knock-on from Eli Walker allowed Edinburgh to put the Ospreys under pressure inside their own 22 once again, and the visitors were grateful to Richard Fussell who provided good cover defence to stop Tom Brown gathering Hunter’s kick to the corner for what would have been a simple score.

Hunter then took Edinburgh seven clear with a penalty from the right touchline after Walker was pinged for not releasing the ball when tackled.

Having rarely spent any time in the opposition half the Ospreys almost grabbed an unlikely second try on 65 minutes, Morgan charging down Hunter’s attempted clearance then showing neat footballing skills to control the ball and gather, sidestepping Tonks. He looked certain to score only for the long arm of second row Perry Parker to reach out and grip the waistband of Morgan’s shorts and haul him down a metre short.

There was a huge blow for the Ospreys a minute later when Lewis became the second yellow card of the second period, the referee losing his patience after a string of offences by the visitors, leaving them with 14 once again.

With the clock running down and enjoying numerical advantage Edinburgh were happy to keep it tight and go through the phases, denying the Ospreys any possession as they looked for a way back into the game.

There was an element of fortune in the hosts favour when the ref ruled that Tonks wasn’t held by Bishop in the tackle on halfway, but having blown an overlap on the left with an offside advantage in their favour, Edinburgh then failed to make the chance count when Hunter was off target with what had seemed a straightforward penalty.

The arrival of Duncan Jones had steadied the Ospreys scrum but in the dying seconds he was penalised at an Edinburgh put-in 5m out, allowing Hunter to move his team 10 points clear with the final kick, cruelly denying the Ospreys the losing bonus point.

 

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