A late penalty saw Harlequins claim the win to spoil the Ospreys return to St Helens but, on a night where there were 7 debutants for the region, there were plenty of positives to look back on.
- A try on his debut from Tom O'Flaherty, inside three minutes, and Dafydd Howells' fourth of the season, with two points from Luke Price, saw the Ospreys lead 12-5 at the break
- Second half frustrations saw an apparent try ruled as 'held up' before an offside call in the final six minutes allowed Harlequins to clinch it late on
- Seven debuts on the night and a number of exciting performances from youngsters gave Ospreys supporters plenty to be happy about regardless of the result
Having led from the third minute to the 61st, it took an offside decision in front of the posts inside the final 10 minutes to settle it, Harlequins taking the lead for the first time with just six minutes remaining before holding out as the Ospreys launched one final onslaught.
It started as well as could have been hoped for in front of a healthy crowd at the home of Swansea RFC, the Ospreys in front inside 180 seconds, a try for winger Tom O’Flaherty on his debut.
It came from a quick tap and go by Dan Baker, the Wales man carrying into the 22 before the visitors had been able reorganise in defence. When it was spun out to the left the Bridgend wing was able to wiggle his way over in the corner for a score confirmed following a brief consultation between the officials.
The angle proved too much for Luke Price, his conversion off target, but the Ospreys led by five.
It was the Ospreys who were controlling affairs in the first quarter, Harlequins struggling to get out of their own half, and try number two almost came in the 19th minute.
Centre, Joe Thomas, making his first start after one appearance off the bench in this competition almost two years ago in Gloucester, ran a great angle to slice through the Harlequins defence. With Price on his shoulder, a successful pass would have taken the last defender out and given the Abercrave outside half a simple run-in to score, but the ball went forward and to ground.
The Ospreys were penalised at the resulting scrum, allowing Ruaridh Jackson to put Harlequins up inside the opposition 22 where they were able to turn the screw.
Initially seeing their lineout drive repelled, they were eventually successful at the scrum, number eight George Naoupu picking up and driving over to score. The conversion was missed so it was level on the scoreboard with 24 minutes played.
Thomas then showed a good turn of pace to steal a loose ball deep inside his 22 and race upfield, showing his soccer skills to get within sight of the line with two defenders breathing down his neck, only for the bounce of the ball to beat him, allowing Harlequins to clear.
However, the Ospreys came straight back, a lineout on the left providing the platform to attack from which first Matthew Aubrey and then Joe Tomalin-Reeves got agonisingly close to the line. Harlequins were penalised and it was Ospreys centurion Adam Jones who was the offender, sent for 10 minutes in the bin for a high tackle to huge ironic cheers from the home crowd.
The Ospreys took advantage of the extra man immediately, opting for a scrum instead of taking the simple three points on offer, and they were rewarded when Dafydd Howells was able to jink his way over the line. Price followed up the try with a good conversion for his first points in senior rugby.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 12 HARLEQUINS 5
Harlequins should have claimed the first points of the second half five minutes after the restart, a scrum penalty giving Jackson what seemed a straight forward kick to reduce the deficit to four but, clearly struggling to deal with the Swansea wind, his kick was off target.
A knock-on by Jackson on his own line then gave the Ospreys an opportunity to go for try number three, Dan Baker stopped just short before a front row combination of Rhodri Jones, Gareth Thomas and Scott Otten drove over, under the posts, only to be ruled held up.
The Ospreys youngsters were playing some lovely rugby and O’Flaherty warmed the crowd up with a seemingly impossible mazy run from his own line to halfway, evading multiple tackles on his way as the clock ticked towards the hour mark.
We then had the welcome sight of Sam Underhill entering the field for the first time this season following shoulder surgery in the summer.
However, it was Harlequins celebrating as the clock hit 60 minutes, a rolling maul marching the Ospreys back towards their own line. The hosts were able to prevent them getting over the line at the first attempt but, after a couple of unsuccessful pick and gos from the forwards there was no stopping Charlie Matthews from close range.
Replacement Tim Swiel made no mistake with the conversion, levelling the score with 20 minutes still to play.
It was nip and tuck as both sides looked for the score that could win it and an offside call against the Ospreys, an unpopular call with the home support, gave Swiel the simplest of kicks to put the Quins ahead for the first time in the 72nd minute.
Try as they might, the Ospreys were unable to find the winning score as they were forced to settle for a losing bonus point. Next Friday, they face Cardiff Blues at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park in their second fixture in this competition.