Ospreys 23 Worcester Warriors 19
A last minute try from Ross Jones sealed victory for the Ospreys in an entertaining and keenly fought pre-season contest at the Liberty Stadium.
Kick-off was delayed by 90 minutes after Worcester’s team bus had caught fire on the M5 en route to Swansea earlier in the delay, but the travel problems didn’t seem to cause the Warriors any problems as they raced into an early lead with two tries inside the first seven minutes.
However, the Ospreys showed great spirit to overhaul their opponents, taking the lead five minutes into the second half thanks to tries from Richard Fussell and summer signing Jeff Hassler, and even though Worcester went in front again 12 minutes from the end the Ospreys were able to wrestle back the initiative right at the death to secure a deserved win.
Worcester would have been forgiven if they had been slow out of the starting blocks after the dramas of their journey to Ospreylia but the reality was far from it.
It wasn’t the best of starts for the Ospreys, conceding the opening try inside 120 seconds, as centre Josh Matavesi easily evaded two tackles to drift in from close range to score.
Paul Warwick missed the conversion attempt, so when Dan Biggar responded with a penalty immediately it meant the Warriors led by two points five minutes in.
Biggar penalty aside it was proving to be a sluggish start for the Ospreys and they conceded a second try with only seven minutes on the clock. Worcester moved it through the hands to the right, sucking in defenders before spinning it back across field where they had a two-man overlap on the left wing, Dean Schofield’s long, looping pass releasing David Lemi to score. Paul Warwick added the extras.
A turnover by the Ospreys on their own 22 then allowed them to move the ball for the first time, working it across field to Hassler close to the touchline. Although he was unable to beat the tackle, the penalty went to the Ospreys and Biggar slotted the kick over.
Worcester scrum-half Jeremy Su’a then had the Ospreys on the back foot with a delightful jinking run from halfway before being halted inside the 22. It was recycled quickly, spun from left to the right, and Josh Drauniniu seemed certain to score only for a last gasp tackle by Eli Walker to deny him in the corner.
As it moved into the second quarter the Ospreys began to enjoy more possession, and powerful running from Joe Bearman and James King took them deep into the Worcester 22. Warriors defenders were penalised for killing the ball, and the Ospreys opted for a quick tap and go. The next two minutes saw the hosts pounding on their opponents line, Ryan Bevington, Biggar, Scott Baldwin, Tito Tebaldi and Eli Walker all being stopped just short, before Fussell eventually managed to squirm over in the corner.
Biggar was just off target with a difficult conversion attempt from the left touchline, leaving the score at 11-12 in the visitors favour.
The Ospreys were dominant, controlling territory and possession as the clock ticked towards half-time but were unable to turn that into points, which meant they went in at the break trailing by a point.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 11 WORCESTER WARRIORS 12
Biggar had an early opportunity to nudge his team ahead with a kickable penalty early in the second half, opting to go to the corner instead.
Desperate Warriors defence halted the progress of an Ospreys rolling maul from the resulting lineout, but the ball was worked out through the hands of Tebaldi, Biggar, Ashley Beck and Ben John until it reached Canadian international Hassler on the right and there was no stopping him as he crashed over in the corner to put his team ahead for the first time on the day.
For the second time Biggar’s conversion attempt was off target, leaving the score 16-12 to the Ospreys with 46 minutes gone.
Next it was Worcester’s turn to go to the corner instead of taking the three points on offer, and it took a huge defensive effort from the home pack to disrupt the visitors maul, the ball eventually being knocked on which allowed the Ospreys to clear.
At the other end, a quickly taken throw by Worcester’s Euan Murray almost played his team into deep trouble, Beck reading the throw well to intercept. The centre exchanged passes with replacement Tom Grabham, on for Hassler, but the Worcester defensive cover was able to get back to snuff out the threat close to their line.
A little dink forward from Fussell on the left almost fell perfectly for Walker chasing through, but as he tried to control the ball with his feet to give him what would have been a certain try his first touch was too heavy and it ran dead over the line.
Worcester again went to the corner when awarded a penalty and the decision paid off for them this time, former Osprey Ed Shervington driven over from close range to put the visitors back in front. Replacement Ignacio Mieres added the extras, taking the score to 16-19 with a little over 10 to play.
Although trailing by three with just seven minutes to go, in the spirit of a pre-season game the Ospreys then went to the corner when a certain three were on offer, but were unable to secure their own lineout ball, allowing Worcester to clear.
The Ospreys maintained the pressure as they looked for the winning score, and Worcester were forced to play out the final minutes a man short after Paul Andrew was yellow carded for interfering with the ball on the ground as the visitors threatened to find a way through.
Again they went to the corner, again the pack rumbled forwards, again they were unable to force their way over the line as desperate Worcester defence held them out.
With just three minutes left, Dan Baker was held up over the line, and with the scrum awarded to the Ospreys, the noise levels lifted inside the Liberty.
From the set-piece, a massive Ospreys shove gave Tebaldi and his backs a platform to work from and when the ball was spun to the left it was Ross Jones who evaded the defensive efforts of Ravai Fatiaki and Paul Hodgson do dive over and dot down for what was to prove the match winning score.
Celebrations were temporarily put on hold as referee Nigel Owens turned to his assistant for advice before confirming the score, which put the Ospreys back in front.
Matthew Morgan’s touchline conversion rounded off the scoring, putting the finishing touches on a hard fought pre-season win for the Ospreys who now turn their attention to Friday’s trip to Bath.