The Ospreys left it late, but came back from 22-9 down to clinch a narrow victory at Headingley Carnegie this afternoon.
They run in three second half tries, through James King, Richard Fussell and Matthew Dwyer, while Dai Flanagan enjoyed a perfect day with the boot, kicking five out of five.
It was the Ospreys were the first to threaten, a clever Dai Flanagan chip behind the Leeds defence allowing Gareth Owen to race forward and gather, only to knock on in the shadow of the posts as he was tackled.
Leeds responded positively, and they opened the scoring with just six minutes gone through the boot of former Scarlets fly-half Ceiron Thomas after referee Dave Pearson penalised the Ospreys for offside.
The Ospreys didn’t have to wait to long for an opportunity to level it, Flanagan making Leeds pay for an offside decision in the 12th minute.
The first try of the afternoon went to the hosts, hooker Gareth Hardy stretching over to ground in the corner after a rolling maul following a line-out had rumbled forward with Mr Pearson playing an advantage. Thomas’s conversion attempt from right out on the touchline was narrowly wide.
There was nearly a score at the other end almost immediately, the Ospreys moving the ball well to feed Eli Walker on the right flank and he looked certain to score only to lose the ball in contact as he went over, thanks to a big bit from number eight Daniel Browne. Flanagan’s second successful penalty the reduced the deficit to just two points after Leeds had infringed in the scrum.
It may have been a pre-season fixture in the sunshine but it was certainly no stroll in the park, and the Ospreys were forced to utilise Justin Tipuric as a blood replacement for James King midway through the half. The visitors were looking to move the ball at every opportunity, and the back three of Walker, Richard Fussell and Tom Prydie were all involved in a flowing move that came to an abrupt end when Ian Evans was on the receiving end of a thunderous hit from Fijian wing Semi Tadulala.
Flanagan’s fine form with the boot saw the Ospreys nudge ahead as the interval approached following another offence in the scrum, making it three out of three for the summer signing.
However it Leeds who went in at the break with the lead, Jacob Rowan finishing off a move from a line-out after Alfie To'oala had burst through the middle, the flanker shrugging off Walker’s last-ditch challenge to ground, Thomas adding the extras.
HALF-TIME: LEEDS CARNEGIE 15 OSPREYS 9
Only a misplaced Flanagan pass that drifted forward prevented the Ospreys from opening the half with a score following a well-worked line-out, Prydie being called back as he looked to race over on the far side, before a powerful run from Lee Blackett took him into Ospreys territory but he was unable to find the supporting Tadulala.
Leeds did manage to get the next score however, To’oala doing the damage with a barnstorming run that saw him power through a number of challenges only to be halted a metre short. The ball was played out wide at speed, where Thomas had a simple canter over to extend his side’s lead, picking himself up to add the extras.
The Ospreys immediately set about reducing the deficit and duly got their first try through youngster James King, capitalising on some excellent work by Jamie Nutbrown who picked up and carried at the base of ruck, squirming through the tightest of gaps. His progress was halted just short, but he was able to offload to King who had the easiest of finishes, Flanagan converting.
It got better for the visitors when Fussell crossed for his first try in Ospreys colours to round off a classic counter-attack what had been launched by Fussell deep into Ospreys territory. He carried well before feeding Owen who cleverly chipped over the cover, and Fussell won the footrace to ground, Flanagan’s conversion putting his team back in front with thirteen to go.
The lead was shortlisted though, Christian Lewis-Pratt successful with his first penalty after the Ospreys were caught offside right in front of the posts.
The tit-for-tat scoring continued, Prydie successful for the Ospreys before Lewis-Pratt made it two out of two to restore the Leeds lead.
With time running out, the Ospreys needed to strike back instantly, which they did in some style. Replacement fly-half Matthew Morgan made a good break through the middle before releasing Morgan Allen. When he was halted the ball was worked wide to the left, James Goode with the final pass to Matthew Dwyer who went over to score. Prydie’s missed conversion left it 31-28 to the Ospreys with less than four minutes remaining.
As you would expect, the home side piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but the Ospreys were able to hold a firm defensive line to close the game out and clinch a hard earned victory in the Yorkshire sun.