A youthful Ospreys team showed plenty of endeavour and spirit but were beaten by a far more experienced Lyon team on the French/Swiss border this evening.
Organised by Hermance RRC to commemorate their 40th anniversary, it was the region’s first pre-season fixture, and their first game against the French T14 newcomers.
Having trailed 31-0 at the break, the young team impressed in the second half with their spirit and adventurous approach, but had to wait until the final minute of the match before Ben John scored the Ospreys only try.
A scrappy opening saw both teams struggling to impose themselves on the game, being played almost entirely around halfway, but what the first 10 minutes lacked in finesse they more than made up for with commitment, a number of big hits from both teams drawing gasps from the crowd.
The first opportunity went Lyon’s way, a series of pick and drives taking the French team close to the Ospreys line, only for former Wasps fullback Mark Van Gisbergen to knock-on as he looked to receive just a metre short. He was immediately reprieved though, the referee taking play back for an offside decision against James King, Van Gisbergen slotting over an easy penalty.
Great work by Tom Grabham to disrupt former Osprey Ricky Januarie at a Lyon scrum saw the French side put under pressure, only for Kristian Phillips to be penalised for not releasing after being brought down following a jinking run through the middle.
Lyon responded well and got the first try of the night as the opening quarter drew to a close, Franck Romanet doing well to read the bounce and race through from the Ospreys 10m line to score under the posts, Van Gisbergen adding the extras.
An unfamiliar looking and inexperienced Ospreys team were then able to work their way upfield on a number of occasions with some adventurous play, but were struggling at the scrum, with a vastly more street-wise Lyon pack turning the screw at every opportunity.
With that in mind it came as no surprise to see the French team opt for the set-piece after Ian Evans was penalised for offside close to the Ospreys line. After three resets, and the referee playing advantage, Lyon ignored a three man overlap on their left to go through a series of pick and go’s, and Januarie eventually sniped his way over from close range, Van Gisbergen extending the lead.
Lyon grabbed their third try five minutes later, the second of the night for Romanet. It came from a Lyon scrum just inside their half on the left, quick hands seeing the ball worked the width of the pitch for the right wing to cross, Van Gisbergen again adding the extras.
At the next scrum, skipper for the night Sonny Parker and loosehead Ken Dowding spent time talking to the referee, who then called Lyon’s Phil Toleafoa across to join the conversation.
Outstanding work from young scrum-half Grabham prevented giant second row Pierre Viguroux from crossing, but when the ball was recycled it eventually reached Waisele Sukanavata who danced his way through the defence to score, Van Gisbergen’s fifth success from five kicks bringing the first half to an end.
HALF-TIME: LYON 31 OSPREYS 0
The Ospreys would have been looking to restart brightly and only a last gasp Sukanavata tackle on Phillips just two minutes in as he looked to race through from halfway after intercepting a Regis Lespinas pass prevented what would have been a certain try.
Dogged defence from the Ospreys then prevented a fifth Lyon try, Viguroux, Toleafoa and Van Gisbergen all being held up short as they bombarded the Ospreys line.
It was proving to be a difficult evening in the shadow of the Alps for the young Ospreys but they kept digging in, refusing to give up any lost cause as the evening sun shone down on Stade Marius Berthet.
The Ospreys almost carved a well deserved try in the 58th minute, Phillips going on a run that sliced right through the Lyon defence. As the cover looked to force him out of play he looked to offload to the supporting Luke Morgan who had done well to keep up with him, but the Bridgend Athletic product just failed to gather with the line beckoning.
Minutes later, good footwork from Phillips saw him take on Eric Tomamichel on the outside, showing good gas, before feeding Ben John who looked to carry but the young centre couldn’t find a way through.
It was the best Ospreys spell of the evening but they paid the price for not converting pressure into points when Lyon extended their lead with a length of the field score. A quick tap penalty after the Ospreys had again been pinged at the scrum saw Nicolas Bontinck carry out of the Lyon 22 and the ball was then passed through numerous pairs of hands at pace, before Vinaya Wakanivuga went over, Romain Loursac converting to make it 38-0 with 17 minutes remaining.
They’d had scant reward for their efforts but the Ospreys finally made it onto the scoreboard four minutes later. Opting to go for a lineout after being awarded a penalty for killing the ball, the Ospreys went through a number of phases on the Lyon line. Having failed to find a way through, Matthew Morgan, on for Dai Flanagan, chose to go for the simple drop goal.
Morgan was at the heart of things just sixty seconds later, a break from his own 22 taking the Ospreys to halfway before his chip forward gave Phillips something to chase. He appeared to be impeded as he raced towards the line, but as the ball ran dead the ref’s decision was a 22 drop out, despite the appeals of the traveling support in the crowd for a penalty try.
It was much improved stuff from the Ospreys, and Barry Davies was the next to break through but as he looked to offload 10m out, all he could find was the grateful arms of a Lyon defender.
John, Sam Lewis and Sonny Parker were then all involved in a swift passing move that took the Ospreys 50m upfield, Mosese Ratuvou making a timely intervention to halt their progress.
With time running out the Ospreys eventually got the try they deserved through John. Awarded a penalty for a deliberate knock-on, they understandably went for the corner. Ian Evans ensured secure lineout ball and James Goode drove for the line, being held up inches short. The ball was recycled and the pack made several attempts to drive over, sucking in defenders before Matthew Torrance spun it wide allowing the Aberavon centre to score with the last play of the game, Sam Davies converting to make it 38-10 at the final whistle.