On a night when five players made their Ospreys debuts, a youthful line-up put in a courageous effort against a fully loaded Gloucester, giving the hosts a real scare at Kingsholm.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Gloucester scored two quickfire tries, the first from Ospreys centurion Richard Hibbard, to lead 12-0. However, tries either side of the break from Alex Jeffries, on his first start, and Reuben Morgan-Williams, drew the visitors level, before a Luke Price penalty nudged them ahead with 30 minutes to play.
The lead was short lived as Gloucester hit straight back, and they had a try bonus before the hour was out, but the Ospreys remained in contention until that late flurry of tries, Ifan Phillips’ late score just a consolation.
On a night that saw the region finish the game with 13 men after yellow cards for Morgan Morris and Lloyd Ashley as Gloucester made the most of their biggest weapon, the rolling maul there were Ospreys debuts for Callum Carson, Kieran Martin, Josh Cole, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Dewi Cross.
The hosts were the first to threaten, a powerful lineout drive taking them close to the Ospreys line with just five minutes played, Fraser Balmain peeling off, looking to force his way over. Excellent work from Morgan-Williams, fresh from signing his first professional contract, prevented the prop grounding the ball, the TMO confirming no try.
Gloucester maintained the pressure at the scrum that followed, keeping it tight with a series of close range drives, but the Ospreys held firm, forcing a knock-on, which allowed Morgan-Williams to clear.
Having survived that early pressure the Ospreys then had the chance to open the scoring, a high tackle on Jay Baker giving Luke Price an opportunity some 30m out on the left but his kick was always off target, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Ospreys were settling into the game and, looking to take advantage of a Gloucester knock-on just outside their 22, lovely hands from Price almost put James Hook through, before Dafydd Howells was bundled into touch metres short as he looked to pin his ears back and go for the line.
What followed was a cruel blow as Gloucester won a penalty at the next maul and managed to work their way upfield via a second offence from where the Cherry and White pack were unstopabble, the familiar face of Hibbard dabbing down, the conversion from Billy Burns successful.
The visitors were back under their posts inside two minutes, Gloucester spotting the lack of cover on the Ospreys left to counter from inside their 22, Mark Atkinson finishing off the length of the field break despite the best efforts of Howells to get back and cover.
Burns’ kick came back off the post, but Gloucester held a 12-0 lead with 22 minutes played.
As the half hour approached there was a lengthy delay as the officials took their time to review an old fashioned ‘all-in’ off the ball sparked by the two sevens, Will Jones and Will Safe, the end result being just a penalty for Gloucester to clear into the opposition half.
Jones was then in the thick of it, his perfectly timed run in support of Price taking the Ospreys into the Gloucester 22, only a huge hit from David Halaifonua halting his progress, the impact bringing his involvement in the contest to a premature end, replaced by debutant Cole.
Despite the scoreline the Ospreys were very much in the contest as half time approached and they almost grabbed their first try three minutes from the break. Scott Otten was the unlikely catalyst, bursting through halfway and into the 22 before putting in a little dink for Morgan-Williams to chase.
Unfortunately for the Ospreys, the young scrum-half’s kick through was too heavy, running out over the dead ball line before he could get there to ground it.
However, they were able to maintain the pressure and were rewarded for their efforts at the final play. James Ratti did exceptionally well at the lineout and the drive was halted illegally just short of the line. With an advantage in their favour the Ospreys pack went again and, eventually, it was Jefferies who showed great power to drive over and score, Price bringing the half to an end with the extras.
HALF-TIME: GLOUCESTER 12-7 OSPREYS
Having ended the first half on a high, the Ospreys continued where they had left off at the start of the second, leveling things inside two minutes of the restart.
Attacking from the off and with a penalty advantage in their favour, it was a moment of individual opportunism from Morgan-Williams with a half-break and little chip over the top. The ball went to ground from a Gloucester player in contact and the scrum half reacted quickest to ground it, a score confirmed by the TMO.
Price was unable to add the extras though, his conversion striking the upright just as Burns’ first half effort from a similar position had.
The Ospreys were in the ascendancy now and they took the lead for the first time with 50 minutes gone, Price rounding off a good period of pressure with a straightforward three points.
The lead lasted less then two minutes though, Gloucester hitting straight back to retake the initiative, Ben Morgans, Henry Trinder and Hibbard all involved before Callum Braley snuck over from close range to score. Burns took a rushed drop kick conversion attempt that failed to find the target, Gloucester clearly suspecting TMO intervention to check a knock-on in the build-up, but the home team led by two points.
Gloucester secured a try bonus point with their fourth of the night on 55 minutes. A scrum penalty allowed them to go to the corner and, with an advantage after the Ospreys had pulled down the maul, it was spread wide across the field where they had a man over and Ollie Thorley eased his way over to score, the final pass looking suspiciously forward.
Burns converted from the touchline and the score was now 24-15.
Try number five followed in the 67th minute in almost identical manner, Gloucester using their experienced and heavier pack to good advantage and again, with the penalty coming their way spinning across the park for Trinder to finish it off, Burns’ conversion hitting the post.
With the home team turning the screw through the pack, using the rolling maul wherever possible, the Ospreys were reduced to 14 in the 70th minute when Morris was shown yellow and he was joined in the bin three minutes later by Ashley as the pressure told.
It came as no surprise when former Scarlet Ben Morgan got the next try from the back of a maul, Burns converting. However, there was more surprise at the other end when Phillips crashed over for his side’s third, a six man Ospreys pack driving forward before the hooker peeled off and went up the blind side for an unconverted score three minutes from the end.
There was still time for one last score from the hosts, Matt Scottt going over, Burns converting, the final scoreboard not reflecting a great effort from the Ospreys.