The Ospreys came out on top at the HAC in London on Thursday evening, rounding off the preparations for the new PRO12 campaign with a five try win over Saracens.
An explosive start saw the Ospreys, looking resplendent in their new magenta and white strip, sponsored by OSTC FX, racing into a 16 point lead inside the first 22 minutes, only for Saracens to claw their way back into the contest, and they trailed by just the three points at the end of the third quarter.
However, with a stronger bench to call on, the Ospreys were able to pull away and give the scoreline a more satisfying look by the final whistle.
It was a good night for the wingers, with Dafydd Howells scoring an early pair and Kristian Phillips and Tom Grabham both also touching down, while Nicky Smith grabbed the fifth and final try. Sam Davies converted four of the five successfully.
The Ospreys had the perfect start, taking the lead with under four minutes on the clock. It came from good work by Tom Habberfield, pouncing on a loose ball around halfway and making a good break deep into Sarries territory. With a knock-on advantage in the Ospreys favour, the ball was then worked to the left where Ben John carried well before Howells went over in the corner. Davies kicked the extras from the touchline.
The early pressure from the visitors continued and only a last gasp tackle from Matt Gallagher halted John’s progress as a jinking run took him towards the Saracens line.
The second try came shortly after, John involved once again as Howells repeated his earlier feat to score in the corner but, this time, Davies was off target.
Ben Spencer got Saracens first points just before the 20 minute mark with a penalty from the right but it continued to be all about the Ospreys as Phillips finished off a lovely move on the left after Jonathan Spratt, Dan Evans and Sam Parry had all carried well. Davies’ kick made it 19-3 to the visitors.
The home team finally began to see some of the ball and, trailing by 16, they opted to go to the corner when handed a penalty close to halfway for interfering on the ground.
It proved the right decision as the pack rumbled over from close range, the experienced Jackson Wray dabbing down. Spencer converted.
Spencer then added a second penalty to reduce the deficit to six points at the break, referee Luke Pearce blowing the whistle a few minutes early following a lengthy delay as young blind side, Olly Cracknell, received on-field treatment following a blow to the head, eventually being stretchered off.
HALF-TIME: SARACENS 13 OSPREYS 19
The third quarter was very much about Saracens pressure as they knocked on the Ospreys line with a spell of relentless attacking, but the visitors held their line intact despite a number of attempts, Wray, Maro Itoje and Michael Rhodes all trying to barge their way over without success.
As the game moved into the third quarter, all that Saracens had to show for nigh on 20 minutes of attacking was another three points, Spencer finally opting to go for the posts after his forwards had repeatedly found their way to the line blocked.
Having weathered the storm the Ospreys were finally able to move their way back up field for the final 15 minutes or so, and try number four arrived following intelligent work from Brendon Leonard, marshaling his troops close to the line before Owen Watkin created space for Grabham to go over out wide. Davies’ conversion took the score to 16-26.
With some breathing space once again, the Ospreys were looking to finish off the job, and young open side, Sam Underhill was held up on the line underneath the posts.
The following scrum gave the Ospreys a platform to attack from, and after several phases on the line it was Nicky Smith who was driven over from close range to round off the night, Davies successful with the conversion.