Three second half tries weren't enough to see the Ospreys secure a win at the Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon, after they trailed by a 21 point deficit at the 60 minute mark.
Paul James, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Bishop all touched down in the final quarter, but ultimately, a late Ceri Sweeney penalty proved the difference as the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.
The Blues were on the offensive from the first whistle, winning a penalty for Ospreys hands in the ruck within the first 20 seconds, Dan Parks giving the home side the perfect start.
Parks then doubled the lead just a couple of minutes later, Marty Holah pinged for not releasing after the tackle, as the Blues looked the brightest in the early exchanges.
It was one-way traffic and the first try went the way of the Blues with just eight minutes gone. The scoring move stemmed from Dan Biggar failing to hit touch from a penalty, allowing the opposition to carry back up field. Chris Czekaj, Rhys Thomas and Casey Laulala all carried well, before the fullback’s long pass allowed the Blues to make the most of an overlap on their left, Tom James racing through to score.
Parks was unable to add the extras, but his counterpart had more success at the other end shortly after, Biggar’s penalty from halfway securing the first Ospreys points of the afternoon, before Parks was again off target, this time with a long range effort after the Ospreys were offside.
The Scotland fly-half had more luck as the game moved into the second quarter with a drop goal from in front of the posts taking the score up to 14-3 after the Ospreys scrum had been penalised by referee Nigel Owens in the opposition half.
There was then an enforced change in the Ospreys pack, Jerry Collins off injured, replaced by Ryan Jones with just 24 minutes gone, before Marty Holah exited with a blood injury, Ian Evans coming into the second row with skipper Alun Wyn Jones moving back.
Biggar had a chance to take the Ospreys up to six points after the Blues offended in the scrum but his long-range effort drifted to the left of the posts.
Parks had more luck at the other end on the half hour mark after the Blues had patiently worked their way upfield, moving through nine phases. The Ospreys defended solidly and there was no way through, but once they were in drop goal territory, the Blues 10 made no mistake.
Next, Biggar again had a chance to keep the scoreboard ticking over, albeit a difficult one from halfway, but his attempt just faded away under the crossbar.
The first half almost ended as it begun with Parks having a opportunity with the last kick after Jamie Nutbrown was caught off his feet at the ruck, but on this is occasion it drifted across the face of the posts and wide of the right upright.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF BLUES 17 OSPREYS 3
Confusion reigned less than two minutes into the second period, when Paul James and Taf’ao Filise were simultaneously shown yellow cards after the scrum went down for a second time in quick succession – clearly Mr Owens was unsure as to where the blame lay!
The Ospreys needed an early strike if they were to claw their way back, but unfortunately the first score of the second half went the way of the Blues in the 45th minute. They had a knock-on advantage on halfway and seemed to be going nowhere when former Osprey Richard Mustoe took possession in midfield. He straightened up, breaking through Adam Jones’ tackle, and was left with a clear run from the 10m line to score, Parks adding the extras to take his team three converted tries clear.
They responded positively, and after a Biggar penalty kick to touch, the Ospreys worked through several phases to create an overlap on the left, only for Fussell’s final pass to go behind Alun Wyn Jones and Mike Phillips straight into touch.
Having stuggled to get any real territory or possession, the Ospreys were finally able to enjoy their first prolonged period of dominance, Fussell and Bishop both getting close to the Blues line, but after more than a dozen phases the ball was coughed up uneccesarily, Rhys Thomas intercepting a Biggar pass, allowing Parks to clear.
Back came the Ospreys, and after Laulala held up Holah just a couple of metres short, Fussell carried well before Paul James was able to barge his way over from close range for his team’s first try with 20 to go before Biggar’s conversion attempt came back off the left hand post.
While talk of a comeback seemed premature at this stage, just two minutes later the Ospreys helped themselves to their second try, Bowe reading Parks’ pass on halfway perfectly to intercept, racing through to leave Biggar with a simple conversion to leave his side trailing by just nine points.
With a quarter of an hour to go the Ospreys had a chance to reduce the deficit still further after the Blues were penalised in the scrum, but Hook’s long-range attempt had neither the length nor the direction.
However, Park’s clearance was a poor one, allowing the Ospreys to come straight back at the Blues, and when they were penalised for going off their feet, Hook put over a simple penalty to make it 24-18 with 11 to go.
A Ceri Sweeney penalty then gave the Blues a bit of breathing space as they looked to close the game out, before his wild clearing kick at the other end put his team under unnecessary pressure before they were able to eventually clear their lines.
With three minutes to go a series of pick and drives took the Ospreys close to the Blues line, sucking in defenders, before they spread it wide, Bishop going over for the try. Hook’s conversion took the score to 27-25.
When the Ospreys were awarded a penalty in their own 22 right at the death they were offered an opportunity to work their way upfield to try for a winning score but not for the time they coughed up possession and the game was over.