A penalty try at the final play of the game cost the Ospreys victory in Treviso as they ended this season’s European campaign on a disappointing note.
After first half tries for James King and Eli Walker, Richard Fussell’s touchdown had nudged the Ospreys ahead with 10 minutes to go but late pressure from the hosts was rewarded with the clock showing time.
It was a case of deja vu for the visitors, after suffering a similarly heart breaking defeat at the same stage of the 2012/13 competition at the same venue,
The Ospreys were full of positive intent from the first whistle, dominating early territory and possession, and it came as no surprise when they opened the scoring in the 7th minute.
The initial spark was a powerful line break from Tom Grabham in midfield, ably supported by Josh Matavesi and Tyler Ardron. Treviso’s defence scrambled well so the Ospreys changed direction, moving the ball back to the right, where King ignored Justin Tipuric on his outside to barge his way through the tackle and score. Sam Davies added the extras.
Some lovely hands then created another opening, the ball being worked across the field through quick passing, and Sam Lewis was hauled down inches short of the Treviso line, the ball squirming out of play for a defensive lineout as Martin Roberts tried to dig it out from the ensuing ruck.
It was the Ospreys who continued to impress, Ardron and Grabham involved in everything good from the visitors, but an offside in front of the posts 30m out allowed Jayden Hayward to open the Treviso account at the start of the second quarter.
Buoyed by the score, Treviso began to play with confidence, Hayward running the ball straight back from the restart. The hosts enjoyed a prolonged spell of attacking pressure which eventually saw them creating an overlap out on the right wing, the ball spun wide into the hands of Angelo Esposito who raced over to score. Hayward’s touchline conversion attempt struck the outside of the near post, which meant the Italians lead by a single point on the half hour.
As the sun set behind the main stand at Stadio Comunale di Monigo and the temperature dropped, a lovely break by Sam Davies sliced open the Treviso defence and his perfectly timed pass to Walker saw the winger diving over in the corner for a score confirmed by the TMO. Davies pulled his conversion attempt across the face of the posts and wide, meaning the score stood as 12-8 in the visitors favour.
The response from Treviso was, once again, a positive one, the forwards pounding on the line for phase after a phase, and although they were unable to breach the Ospreys’ defence, a penalty for an offence at the ruck allowed Hayward to take three points, narrowing the gap to just one.
With the clock showing 40 minutes and time up for the first half, the Ospreys were made to pay the price for some sloppy pay as Treviso retook the lead. Fussell was scragged as he looked to tidy up some loose ball, but there appeared little danger as the ball was secured comfortably at the ruck almost 40m out. However, Roberts’ attempted box kick was charged down, the ball was secured by Treviso hands and, eventually, it was Marco Barbini who went over for his team’s second try. Hayward was unable to land the conversion, but the hosts would have been happy to head back to the changing rooms with a four-point lead.
HALF-TIME: BENETTON TREVISO 16 OSPREYS 12
The Ospreys got the first points of the second half, 10 minutes after the restart, Davies with a simple penalty after Treviso were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck. The score had followed a stunning break from Lewis, breaking the tackle inside his own 22 before carrying to halfway where he exchanged passes with Justin Tipuric and then released Walker who took play deep into the Italian’s 22.
What had been an open and entertaining contest in the first half had descended into a scrappy, stop-start affair, and the Ospreys still trailed by a point as the clock moved into the final quarter.
The Ospreys were looking the more dominant side though, and after seeing a driving maul pulled down illegally, they were handed the chance to retake the lead with 12 minutes to go, only for Davies to push his kick from the left wide to the right.
However, within a minute, Davies was the catalyst behind his team’s third try, a great run through the midfield taking him clear before Ardron carried into the 22 before being hauled down. It was recycled quickly and Fussell squeezed over in the corner for a try confirmed by the TMO. It was his 17th try for the region, taking him level with Dan Biggar in 11th place in the all-time list, going ahead of James Hook and Stefan Terblanche.
The conversion was missed, meaning the score was 20-16 to the visitors with a little over 10 to play.
In the final minutes Treviso threw everything at the Ospreys and after Sam Christie had been held up over the line, the resulting scrum, with time up, saw the home team turn the screw. As the visiting pack buckled, referee Mathieu Raynal had no hesitation in running under the posts to award the penalty try, Hayward’s conversion the final act of a disappointing afternoon for the region.