The Ospreys strengthened their grip on second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table with a hard fought win in Murrayfield on Friday night, their first on the road against Edinburgh in five attempts.
Having gone behind early on a Richard Hibbard try ensured they stayed in touch during the first half, before a wonderful Hanno Dirksen score put the Ospreys ahead at the end of the third quarter before a great defensive effort in the closing stages allowed them to hang on for a valuable win.
The Ospreys got the game underway and proceeded to dominate the opening stages, Edinburgh unable to get out of their half in the first six minutes, and the pressure almost told when skipper Tom Smith charged down Chris Leck’s attempted clearance from the back of a ruck underneath his own posts. Fortunately for the home team, his half-back partner Phil Godman was alert to the danger and covered well to snuff out any threat of Smith grabbing the opening try.
Having weathered the storm, Edinburgh were finally able to gain some territory and an offside decision against Dan Biggar allowed them a chance to go for goal but Godman was off target when it seemed a simple enough chance.
Having spurned that chance, Godman was offered another go minutes later when Ian Gough was pinged for hands in ruck and this time he made no mistake, splitting the posts to give Edinburgh the lead with 15 minutes gone.
Edinburgh then grabbed the first try in controversial circumstances through centre Dougie Fife. Biggar thought he had gained good territory for the Ospreys with his long clearance from inside his own 22, only for play to be brought right back after it was ruled that Andrew Bishop had touched Chris Paterson’s original kick while in flight, meaning the Ospreys had taken it back inside.
With the lineout now taking place deep inside Ospreys territory, a charge by Netani Talei took the hosts close to the line, before it was recycled quickly, Godman supplying the scoring pass for Fife to score, Godman failing to add the extras.
The Ospreys responded well, Biggar getting their first points of the night via a drop goal after his forwards had gone through a number of phases to work the ball into kickable territory.
Hands in the ruck from Tom Brown then gave the Ospreys a penalty in what looked like goalkicking territory, but Biggar went for the corner instead and the visitors were rewarded for their courage with their first try, the forwards rumbling forward from the lineout for Hibbard to score. Biggar missed the conversion, leaving it all square at eight apiece on 27 minutes.
The score provoked an Edinburgh response, the hosts enjoying their best spell of possession, with Talei and Tim Visser both making good ground in possession. Excellent defensive work saw both Duncan Jones and Kahn Fotuali’i win vital turnover ball, relieving the pressure as the Scots laid siege to the Ospreys 22.
A penalty against Fotuali’i for not releasing the tackled player allowed Godman to nudge his team back in front inside the final minute of the half, ensuring it was Edinburgh who went in the happier.
HALF-TIME: EDINBURGH 11 OSPREYS 8
As had been the case in the first half, the Ospreys enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory in the opening minutes after the restart, but were unable to make any real headway against a well organised Edinburgh defence.
Slowly the hosts were able to work their way back into it, and hands in the ruck from James King allowed Godman to slot over his third penalty of the night, stretching Edinburgh’s lead to six.
A moment of individual brilliance from Dirksen saw the Ospreys respond in the right way, the South African wing receiving the ball off Tom Isaacs deep inside his own half before sidestepping Paterson and chipping over Godman before racing past to collect the ball, outpacing the cover to score before Biggar’s conversion put the Ospreys ahead for the first time on the night.
Edinburgh came back strongly, positive play taking them upfield as they looked to apply pressure, and an offside call against Joe Rees inside the 22 should have seen Edinburgh regain the lead after trailing for just three minutes, but Godman skewed his kick horribly.
As the game moved into the final quarter it was Biggar’s turn to miss the target from a penalty, again from a position where he would have expected to find the target.
The Ospreys defence had to be work hard to keep their line intact as Edinburgh worked through the phases, looking for a crucial score to regain the lead. The ever present threats of Visser and Talei made huge inroads, and just as it looked as they’d managed to work an overlap, a well timed hit on Tom Brown from Sonny Parker halted their progress.
The pressure wasn’t over though, an Eli Walker knock-on resulting in an Edinburgh scrum just six metres out. After several resets, the penalty went the hosts way, and unsurprisingly, they opted to go for the scrum again. However, this time Edinburgh were pinged for an early engagement, allowing Biggar to clear to halfway.
It had been an exciting, evenly matched game, and with six minutes to go it was finely balanced with just a solitary point in it. Edinburgh were pouring forward at every opportunity, looking to move the ball whenever possible, but time and again, the Ospreys were just about able to keep them at bay.
As they looked to play down the clock, a knock-on at base of a ruck on halfway by Rhys Webb allowed Edinburgh one last chance with under a minute to go. From the scrum the hosts were able to go through a number of pick and go’s, taking them closer to the line, edging ever nearer drop goal territory. However, the Ospreys showed the discipline needed to close out, not giving Edinburgh an inch, and eventually, an accidental offside from Edinburgh saw them pinged and the Ospreys win was secured.