The Ospreys winning run came to an end at Sandy Park this evening as Exeter Chiefs ran in four tries on their way to victory in the opening round of the LV= Cup.
All the Ospreys points came from the boot of Matthew Morgan on a difficult evening for an unfamiliar looking team, who found Exeter’s renowned forward power too much to handle.
After a quiet opening 8 minutes it was the hosts who were first to trouble the scorers, Gareth Steenson slotting over from close to halfway after Cai Griffiths was guilty of entering a ruck from the side.
However, a youthful Ospreys side didn’t let the it knock them out of their stride and they were quick to show their attacking intent, Bridgend half-backs Matthew Morgan and Tom Habberfield both launching jinking runs that took their team close to the Exeter line, before Eli Walker scythed through the Chiefs defence only to be pulled back for a forward pass from Morgan Allen.
Good possession play then allowed the Ospreys to patiently work their way upfield, winning a penalty for offside, Morgan levelling the scores with 16 minutes gone.
Walker then had to be alert to snuff out the danger in the corner after Exeter wing Mark Foster put through a delicate chip for Nic Sestaret to chase. The Ospreys were penalised from the resulting lineout, and having already shown their dominance at the scrum Exeter ignored the three points to pack down, and they were rewarded for the decision when referee David Rose, having already reset once, awarded a penalty try as the Chiefs drove towards the line. Steenson completed the simple task of adding the extras.
Walker and his fellow wing Kristian Phillips then combined well, showing their pace, but Walker found himself isolated when tackled, allowing Steenson to win turnover ball. Exeter came back at the Ospreys and following a lineout on their opponents 22 they were able to drive forward towards the line. Initially held up just short, James Phillips was eventually able to force his way over, the try confirmed by TMO Ed Morrison. With Steenson again on target, the scoreboard moved up to 17-3 in Exeter’s favour with 31 minutes gone.
Exeter’s Jack Nowell made a complete hash of gathering Habberfield’s tesing up and under, completely misreading the ball as it dropped out of the floodlit sky, bouncing kindly for the chasing Walker. When he found his progress halted, an Exeter offence allowed Morgan to put over his second successful penalty of the evening.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CHIEFS 17 OSPREYS 6
The hosts dominance at the set-piece continued after the break, with another penalty going their way as the scrum went down, and Steenson made no mistake.
It was proving to be a difficult evening up front for the Ospreys but there was no doubting the spirit on display, and they were able to stay in touch through the boot of Morgan. His third penalty of the night came after good work by Ben John to charge down a Bryan Rennie kick on halfway, the centre gathering the ball before feeding the supporting Morgan Allen who showed good pace and power to carry 15m before being brought down, Mr Rose spotting Exeter hands at the ensuing ruck. However, a similar offence at the other end saw the Ospreys punished just a couple of minutes later, Steenson’s kick making it 23-9 with 56 minutes played.
A barnstorming run up the left wing from Josh Tatupu saw him brushing aside Kristian Phillips before charging past halfway, the combined efforts of Morgan and debutant Ross Jones eventually halting his progress.
The seemingly inevitable procession of replacements on both sides was causing the game to become something of a stop-start affair as it moved into the final quarter, but it was a period that saw the Ospreys enjoy probably their most dominant spell of the game, patiently working their way through the phases as they looked to find a way through. In truth though, Exeter were able to weather the storm without too much difficulty, preventing the Ospreys from getting into their 22 with some solid defensive work.
Having withstood the Ospreys pressure, Exeter then came close to creating their third try of the night, the forwards combining from a line out in the visitors 22, only to get pinged for holding on to the ball close to the line instead of trying to release quick ball to take advantage of an overlap.
However, the try did come shortly afterwards, replacements Tatupu and Myles Dorrian combining well before feeding former Newport Gwent Dragon Phil Dolman, who although he still had some work to do, was unstoppable as he barged his way over to score. Steenson missed with his conversion attempt, leaving his side 28-9 ahead as the clock moved past 70.
Play became more and more broken in the final minutes, but Exeter were able to claim their fourth try with the final play of the game, working it wide to Tatupu who crossed to score, Steenson’s conversion rounding off the evening.