Ospreys 24 Edinburgh 7
The Ospreys move back into the play-off spots after dominating against Edinburgh on a bitterly cold night at the Liberty Stadium.
Morgan Allen took the man-of-the-match honours after scoring two first half tries before Rhys Webb added a third, but the Ospreys failed to turn their dominance into a bonus point.
The hosts started positively, the opening five minutes being played out exclusively in the Edinburgh half, and they got their due rewards with the opening try from number eight Allen.
The score stemmed from a penalty on the left, Matthew Morgan going to touch in the corner. From the lineout the ball was worked across the field and although Rhys Webb’s initial burst was halted close to the line Tom Isaacs recycled, allowing Jonathan Thomas to dart forward before offloading to Allen who crossed to score, TMO Paul Adams just taking a cursory glance at the replays to confirm the grounding. Matthew Morgan duly added the extras with ease.
Edinburgh had their first opportunity for points on 12 minutes after Allen was penalised for hands in the ruck but Harry Leonard’s kick was off target, just drifting past the near side upright.
The visitors then threatened the Ospreys line for the first time, a lineout on the 22m providing a platform for the forwards to rumble forward before Leonard’s show and go almost saw him squeeze through the smallest of gaps. The supporting Perry Parker then sucked in defenders as he looked to barge his way through, but with an overlap on the left the final Edinburgh pass was wayward, allowing the Ospreys to scramble to their right and clear the danger.
A penalty against Sean Cox for offside then allowed Morgan to put the Ospreys back into the corner, and although the initial lineout drive was stopped the hosts maintained the pressure, pounding the line with a series of pick and go’s until eventually number eight Allen was again on the spot to dive over from close range between the sticks, Morgan again converting to make it 14-0.
Some lovely hands saw the Ospreys threaten with a sweeping move from left to right, the ball going through the hands the width of the field and then back to the left again, big second row Lloyd Peers just unable to provide the final offload 5m out, knocking on in the tackle.
Edinburgh had offered little by way of an attacking threat in the first 40 but they stunned the Liberty Stadium crowd with stunning counter-attacking score in the final minutes of the half. The unlikely shape of number eight Netani Talei launched the move from deep inside his own half with a junking 30m run that Phil Bennett would have been proud of before releasing wing Dougie Fife who carried into the Ospreys 22. Morgan managed to pull Fife to the ground. Talei had stayed with him support and kept the ball moving, before it was swept wide from right to left where Hamish Watson danced passed two tackles as he cut infield to score, Leonard converting.
With the clock in overtime Morgan had a chance to add three points to the tally after an Edinburgh offside but he pulled his kick wide, leaving it 14-7 at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 14 EDINBURGH 7
Both teams were guilty of scrappy play as the contest struggled to find its rhythm after the restart, although Edinburgh did have the opportunity to strike first after Cai Griffiths was slow rolling way but Leonard’s long range effort was narrowly wide.
Morgan then missed his second penalty, a seemingly straightforward effort from the left hand side after Willem Nel was pinged at the breakdown.
With 52 minutes on the clock there was the welcome sight of Ashley Beck in an Ospreys shirt for the first time since he picked up an ankle ligament injury in the New Year’s Eve derby against the Dragons.
Fly-half Morgan then made it third time lucky after Edinburgh took a scrum down on their 22, his penalty taking the Ospreys 10 clear.
From the restart, Edinburgh centre Ben Atiga found himself sent to the sinbin, paying the price for his team’s persistent offending as referee David Wilkinson finally lost patience.
The Ospreys immediately took advantage of the extra man as they grabbed their third try of the game on 56 minutes through scrum half Webb. The hosts broke from inside their own half, Richard Fussell carrying well as he took it up into the 22, from where Scott Baldwin powered towards the line before being held up just short. Wing Tom Habberfield was next to try his luck but couldn’t find a way through, before Webb, sniping at the base of the ruck was able to pick and dive over for a score confirmed by the TMO. Morgan duly added the extras.
Morgan almost sparked a try shortly after with a lovely run up the left, but with Kahn Fotuali’i on his right and Tom Isaacs on his left he failed to find either with what would have been a scoring pass, his offload to Isaacs going straight into touch.
It was one-way traffic at this point but the Ospreys were guilty of over-eagerness on a number of occasions as they looked to try and secure a bonus point, forcing the ball unnecessarily and turning over, allowing Edinburgh to clear their lines, forcing their opponents to start again from distance.
On a rare Edinburgh foray into Ospreys territory after Allen had knocked on picking up at the back of the scrum, Webb did well to first win a great turnover before racing upfield from his own line. He had Fotuali’i in support but unfortunately his pass deep inside Edinburgh territory went to opposition hands.
The Scottish team played the final four minutes with 14 men after Nick De Luca was red carded for a spear tackle on Tom Grabham, and the Ospreys piled on the pressure in the closing minutes as they looked to secure a fourth try and with it a deserved bonus point. Try as they might, the score wouldn’t come, Beck being turned over as he was stopped a couple of metres short, allowing Edinburgh to see out the game without conceding.