The Ospreys were outscored three tries to two at a very wet Bridgend Ford Brewery Field in the first of three pre-season fixtures, but there was plenty of promise ahead of the new campaign.
It was Leicester who raced out of the blocks to take an early 14 point lead, tries from Jonah Holmes and Harry Thacker both converted by Joe Ford. However, the Ospreys hit back and it was all square at the break as the Bakers, Jay and Dan, both scored, converted by Luke Price.
There was just the one score in the second half as the Tigers took advantage of a Rowan Jenkins yellow card, Jake Kerr touching down, Ford with the extras.
In conditions more suited to a midwinter evening, a healthy crowd had braved the rain with a sizeable contingent of travelling supporters present to help create a decent atmosphere.
Leicester opened the scoring with the first of the night coming with barely three minutes gone. Quick ball allowed the backs to a work a two on one out on the Tigers’ left and it was Holmes whose sidestep left Owen Watkin grasping air, the winger going over for a score converted by Ford.
It was an open contest, both teams looking to keep the ball alive when possible despite the Bridgend rain, but the second try, on 17 minutes, was all about the pack keeping it tight, hooker Thacker driven over from close range at a Tigers line out in the corner. Ford made no mistake with a difficult kick from the touchline and Tigers led by 14.
There was a sniff of a chance for the Ospreys a few minutes later when Price was able to secure a Leicester overthrow in their own 22. It went right and then back to the left where they had Jay Baker over, waiting the final pass, but Scott Otten was unable to keep the ball alive and the chance was gone.
Defence coach, Brad Davis, would have been pleased with the work done over a five minute spell as the half hour approached, Leicester working hard to bash the door down without any success, the Ospreys eventually winning the penalty to clear their lines.
They were rewarded for their efforts just a couple of minutes later with a lovely try from Jay Baker. A solid scrum on the Tigers 10m line provided a good attacking platform, Dan Evans carried well, and it was Joe Thomas who supplied the scoring pass for the winger to crash over. Price was on target with the conversion.
It was level before the break as Jay’s namesake Dan scored try number two in the 38th minute. It stemmed from outstanding work by Tom Habberfiield, his chase of Price’s kick rewarded with an Ospreys five metre scrum. The hosts were dominant at the setpiece and, after one penalty reset, they had an advantage as the visitors pack splintered, allowing the number eight to pick up and drive over from close range. Price added the extras from in front of the sticks and it was all square.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 14 LEICESTER TIGERS 14
Dan Baker almost found his way over at in similar fashion at the start of the second period, trying to squirrel across the line with a scrum advantage being played, but this time he couldn’t fight his way through.
Conditions were worsening but the Ospreys almost snatched the lead as the hour approached, Adam Beard somehow coming away with the ball from a messy Tigers lineout inside their 22. He fed Brendon Leonard who was hauled down just short, unable to reach over and ground, and the ball was eventually knocked on as the Ospreys pressed the Leicester line.
The knock ons were becoming more regular, the Ospreys always looking adventurous even when, on occasion, a more conservative approach may have reaped dividends.
The hosts were reduced to 14 when Rowan Jenkins was shown a yellow for collapsing a maul close to his own and the visitors took immediate advantage, Kerr driven over at the very next play. Ford’s third conversion took Leicester seven clear with quarter of an hour to play.
With the clock ticking away and the Ospreys needing a converted score to level it, they opted for a scrum in a central positon on the 22 when awarded a late penalty. They bashed hard on the Tigers line but they couldn’t break the stubborn defence down Cory Allen eventually penalised for holding on at the final play.
There would have been plenty for the coaches to be pleased with, and plenty of work ons, after a useful test, with Bath at the Liberty Stadium next at 2pm on Sunday 20th August in the Canterbury Cup - get tickets now from just £10 for adults at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets