The Ospreys will be Wales’ only representatives in the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup following their victory over the Scarlets at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night.
After 21 rounds of Guinness PRO14 action, it was all down to a one-off battle to be crowed best of the west, the Ospreys taking the honours with a famous win over their biggest rivals. Having finished the regular season as the best performing Welsh region, the win at the Liberty ensured they got their just reward on a night where they dominated proceedings.
The home support were on their feet just three minutes in, a stunning break from deep inside the Ospreys half seeing Owen Watkin beating three defenders to carry 30m over halfway before releasing Keelan Giles on his outside. The winger pinned his ears back and went for the line, only to be stopped five metres short, Leigh Halfpenny doing exceptionally well to get across and save a certain try.
There were less than nine minutes on the clock when the Ospreys took the lead through George North. It came from a lineout on the right, the ball worked quickly across the field where Halfpenny again put in a crucial tackle to stop Giles going over in the corner. However, it was recycled well and spun back to the right where Watkin had a three man overlap, picking out North for a simple walk-in. Sam Davies made a tough conversion from the touchline look simple and the Ospreys led 7-0.
Despite their early territorial dominance, the Ospreys were incurring the wrath of the officials for offside, a number of penalties going against them, and it was from one such offence that Halfpenny got the visitors side of the scoreboard moving in the 14th minute.
The Ospreys struck back with their second try of the game, Dan Evans running back a loose clearance kick from Ioan Nicholas, scything through the heart of the Scarlets defence before offloading to Olly Cracknell, the flanker bulldozering his way over to score under the posts, giving Davies the simplest of conversions.
They held an 11-point lead at the midway point of the half but there was an enforced injury change that saw Giles leaving the action to be replaced by Hanno Dirksen.
Dirksen was soon in the thick of it when, six minutes before the break the Ospreys were reduced to 14 when the TMO, Ian Davies, intervened, advising the referee that the winger had taken out Johnny McNicholl in the air.
The Scarlets were able to take advantage of their extra man, powering towards the Ospreys line where McNicholl created the score for Jonathan Davies, which Halfpenny converted.
As much as they huffed and puffed in the closing minutes of the half, the visitors were unable to add a second score which meant the Ospreys held the four point advantage at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 14-10 SCARLETS
Davies had a chance early in the second half to stretch the lead to seven points but he pushed a long-range effort across the face of the posts and wide.
Restored to 15 following Dirksen’s return from the bin, the Ospreys looked to reassert their control of the contest but as the clock ticked towards the hour it was all getting a bit frenetic, error strewn and edgy, with a number of off the ball disagreements taking place, neither side able to win the arm wrestle.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 70th minute, the forwards establishing a platform in the Scarlets 22. Dirksen carried well, Watkin punched a hole through the middle and Dan Evans was stopped in the corner, before Sam Parry got agonisingly close to the line.
The pressure eventually told with Scarlets defenders sucked in after 14 phases, which meant there men over on the left, and it was a simple finish for Dirksen, converted by Price, to seal a crucial win for the Ospreys.
Thank you all for your support, we look forward to seeing you next season in the Champions Cup.