The Ospreys were defeated in their opening pre-season fixture, an unfamiliar mix of youth and experience going down to a full strength Clermont Auvergne team in the Issoire heat.
It was a difficult night for the Ospreys, still three weeks away from their opening PRO12 fixture of the new season and up against a team packed full of quality that begins their Top 14 campaign in just seven days with a trip to Bayonne.
Nevertheless, Steve Tandy and his coaches will be delighted with the spirit and resolve of their team who stuck to the task on a warm evening and battled hard throughout to ensure that Clermont had to give it everything to secure the win.
The game was quick to catch light, Matthew Morgan giving the Ospreys an early lead with a second minute penalty only for the hosts to respond immediately, Canadian second row Jamie Cudmore going over for the first try, converted by Morgan Parra.
With barely six minutes on the clock the lead exchanged hands for the third time when Kahn Fotuali’i showed good awareness to tap and go at a penalty on halfway, catching the Clermont defence out cold as he raced away to score. Morgan’s missed conversion left the score at 8-7 to the Ospreys.
Fotuali’i incurred the wrath of the referee minutes later though, sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes for what was judged an intentional knock-on as he looked to intercept.
With the Ospreys down to 14 their opponents took full advantage, All Blacks legend Sitiveni Sivivatu going over for his first try, Parra again converting. Morgan kept his team in touch with his second penalty, but the Sivivatu/Parra combination was able to stretch the lead to 21-11 with 24 minutes on the clock.
Number eight Damien Chouly grabbed his team’s fourth try on the half hour, Parra again making no mistake, his fourth conversion ensuring Clermont went in 17 points clear at the break.
HALF-TIME: ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE 28 OSPREYS 11
Trailing at the break, the Ospreys would have been looking to get the first score of the second half but it was the home team who looked the most threatening and they duly grabbed the next score, young Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci coming off the bench to score, fellow replacement Brock James converting.
Scotland second row Nathan Hines was then yellow carded for not rolling away, his presence at a ruck interfering with Fotuali’i’s attempts to get the ball away, and the Ospreys were able to make their extra man count as Ross Jones went over for a score after a well worked move from a scrum, Morgan converting.
Back came ASM though, and replacement hooker Benoit Cabello crashed over for his team’s sixth try, James again converting, before Jonathan Spratt became the third play of the night and the second Osprey to be yellow carded, this time for hands in the ruck with an hour gone.
Within a minute Clermont had crossed the line again, Nakaitaci’s second and James’ third conversion taking it to 49-18.
The Ospreys refused to crumble though and with Tandy using the bench to give valuable experience to some of the youngsters in the travelling squad they showed great pride in the jersey to prevent any further scoring from the French side. Centre Nathan Edwards showed up well off the bench as did second row Lloyd Peers, while 18-year old hooker Scott Otten also enjoyed his run-out.
As the clock ticked down the Ospreys laid siege to the Clermont line and duly got their reward after a prolonged spell of pressure, Morgan’s show and go 10m out giving him the time and space to go over in the final minute, the youngster picking himself up to add the conversion.
FULL-TIME: ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE 49 OSPREYS 25