The Ospreys had to settle for a draw in Italy this afternoon, as a Matthew Morgan penalty with just seconds remaining ensured it ended all square in Treviso.
Ryan Jones and Tommy Bowe both scored tries and Dan Biggar kicked 13 points, but the Ospreys were outscored three tries to two.
Early pressure from Treviso saw the hosts setting up camp in the Ospreys 22, Kris Burton and Ludo Nitoglia both slicing open the defence, before an offence at the breakdown saw the visitors penalised, Kris Burton opening the scoring inside five minutes.
The Italians continued to pressurise, a barnstorming run from flanker Benjamin Vermaak following a lineout and another jinking run from Nitoglia putting the Ospreys under pressure.
With nine minutes gone the Ospreys put together their first move of any real intent, a Tommy Bowe linebreak taking his team over halfway. He had support from Kahn Fotuali’i and George Stowers, but what should have been a scoring pass to Justin Tipuric out wide drifted forward before the captain fumbled with the line beckoning.
Referee Pascal Gauzere incurred the wrath of the home crowd after an incident in midfield, which saw Bowe knocking on as he came into the line between his centres at pace. Treviso midfielders appeared to gather and break free, and a try seemed a certainty but Monsieur Gauzere ruled that a double knock on, calling play back for a Treviso scrum.
A penalty for not releasing allowed the Ospreys a chance to level things from halfway but Biggar’s kick fell just short. He has another chance just a couple of minutes later from 15m further forward after an offside, but again he drew a blank, this time pulling it to the left.
The Ospreys had begun to finally enjoy some possession and were working the ball through the hands at every opportunity, and as the first quarter drew to a close they got the first try of the day. It was a wonderfully constructed score with numerous players involved, but Fotuali’i was at the heart of it, keeping play flowing. Eventually the ball reached Bowe who burst through the first tackle before showing great strength to fight his way over, stretching to ground it.
Biggar slotted the conversion over, but indiscipline from the Ospreys at the restart saw a penalty awarded against Tipuric, allowing Burton to bring his team to back within a point.
Shane Williams’ dancing feet, followed by positive running and good hands from Fotuali’i and Richard Fussell take the Ospreys to right in front of the posts, where a Treviso offside allowed Biggar to make it 10-6.
It was an intriguing game and a real clash of styles, Treviso more direct but the Ospreys looking to play an expansive game, and Burton should have reduced the deficit to a single point after setting himself up in front of the posts but his drop goal went wide of the right upright.
Scrum time wasn’t going the Ospreys way and a penalty against Duncan Jones gave Burton another chance from the 10m line to the left, and although it looked to be drifting wide across goal it struck the right hand post before going over.
Good work up the wing by Williams saw the Ospreys respond well, going back into the Treviso 22, and after Ashley Beck was stopped just a couple of metres short Biggar tried his luck with a drop goal attempt on the 22 but couldn’t find the target.
With just seconds to go until the break the Ospreys suffered a blow when the impressive Fotuali’i was forced off, suffering the after effects of a blow to the ribs received minutes earlier, Rhys Webb joining the action.
HALF-TIME: BENETTON TREVISO 9 OSPREYS 10
The second half picked up where the first one ended, with the hosts in the ascendancy, and they scored their first try within minutes of the restart. Awarded a penalty after Bowe was guilty of not releasing the ball on halfway, Treviso opted to go for the corner. From the resulting lineout they rumbled forward until prop Michele Rizzo burst free to go over, Burton’s conversion putting them six points clear.
A strong break from Beck then saw the young centre held up inches short and an Italian offence on the line allowed Biggar to put over a penalty that made the score 16-13 to the home team with 47 minutes gone.
The Ospreys were caught cold seconds later, Benjamin De Jager taking advantage of missed tackles to charge through from the 10m line, wrong footing Williams to score, Burton failing to add the extras.
Good work by Webb at the back of the ruck saw him create an opportunity out wide for Bowe, only for the Irish wing to be forced into touch a couple of metres out. From the resulting lineout, Enrico Ceccato overthrew wildly and when Ryan Jones gathered at the back there was no stopping him from close range. Biggar’s conversion brought the Ospreys back to within a point with just under half an hour to go.
Just as it needed steady nerves to calm things down a missed tackle allowed Burton to break up the left flank, drawing the tackle before slipping it to Tobias Botes who raced over from 20m to score in the corner. Burton’s conversion attempt from the touchline missed, meaning the Ospreys remained within a converted try.
The dreaded tip-tackle then made an appearance, Tomasso Benvenuti upending Williams as he looked to dance his way through midfield, and despite the catcalls of the crowd the penalty was awarded and the centre sent to the bin for 10 minutes. Biggar then made the most of the opportunity, slotting over the resulting penalty to make it 26-23 to the hosts with 17 to go.
Williams was then at his magical best to beat two men before releasing Bowe up the left and it took some great defensive work to halt his progress in the corner.
It was frenetic, it was messy and it was edge of the seat stuff at times, but with the clock running down it seems that the Ospreys were going to have to settle for a losing bonus point. However, replacement Tom Isaacs launched a counter attack up the flank, which eventually resulted in a penalty to the visitors. It certainly wasn’t easy, but up stepped Morgan to slot over three points that levelled things with just 15 seconds remaining to ensure the Ospreys return home with two points in the bag.