The Ospreys lost in the Bridgend rain to Harlequins on Sunday evening as the in-form London side continued a remarkable run that has seen them qualifying for the knockouts in both the Heineken and LV= Cups as top seeds, as well as sitting at the top of the Aviva Premiership as they look to defend the title they won at Twickenham back in May.
The Quins grabbed the only try of the game, as all the Ospreys points came from the boot of Matthew Morgan, the region pushing the Quins all the way in a game they only secured in the final minute.
Morgan warmed up the Bridgend crowd with a jinking run from halfway five minutes in, evading several tacklers before eventually being brought to ground in the corner, seemingly caught in two minds whether to go himself or look to the supporting Jonathan Spratt.
Although Quins were able to keep their line intact continued Ospreys pressure eventually resulted in a home penalty for players going off their feet, allowing Morgan to nudge a simple penalty over to give his team the lead eight minutes in.
The visitors looked to strike back immediately, a flowing back line move seeing Ross Chisolm and Seb Stegmann looking to exchange passes on the left before the Ospreys scramble defence was able to shut the door in their face.
Fullback Chisolm then popped up on the other side of the field, trying to burrow his way over from close range with a penalty advantage being played. With the Ospreys again holding Quins out, play was brought back for the penalty, and Ben Botica duly levelled things.
With 16 minutes gone Botica’s second successful penalty kick, after the Ospreys had collapsed the scrum, put the visitors ahead for the first time.
There was a scare for the Ospreys as the half hour approached, Harlequins wing Sam Smith charging down Morgan’s clearance on his own 22 and although Quins man won the race to get to the ball, the video replays confirmed that it had already gone dead by the time Smith managed to touch it down, TMO Paul Adams correctly ruling no try.
The visitors were increasingly pressurising the Ospreys line and it came as no surptrise when they were finally able to break down the home defence on 30 minutes, centre Matt Hopper scoring the first try of the evening. The physical presence of number eight Tom Guest did the damage, running at the heart of the Ospreys defence, and there was no stopping Hopper from close range. Botica’s conversion took the score to 13-3.
Morgan then kept the Ospreys in touch with his second penalty, from a central position 30m out, after a powerful scrum from the home pack ended up with Quins penalised.
Buoyed by that the Ospreys kept up the pressure and an offside against Quins allowed the Bridgend fly-half to reduce the deficit to just four points with the last kick of the first half.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 9 HARLEQUINS 13
Quins were on the offensive straight from the restart, a series of penalties in the corner allowing them to set up camp on the Ospreys line before an overthrow from hooker Dave Ward allowed the hosts to clear their lines.
Some great scavenging work from Morgan Allen at the breakdown won an Ospreys turnover on halfway, allowing the backs to swing it wide to the left with 17-year old Dafydd Howells backed himself to kick and chase. Only the bounce of the ball beat him as it spun in to touch a couple of metres short as the Abercrave youngster looked set to get there first ahead of Stegmann.
The wet conditions were starting to impact on the game as the number of unforced errors both ways crept up as another kick from Morgan, following a Quins offence at the scrum, meant that on 55 minutes there was just a point separating the teams.
There was little to separate the teams as it became something of a wrestle in the mud moving into the final 10 minutes.
However, the initiative appeared to swing the way of the visitors on 72 minutes when Matthew Dwyer’s overthrow at the lineout on halfway allowed Dave Ward to make some easy yards down the middle, Ospreys hands at the ensuing ruck handing Botica a kickable penalty which, thankfully for the Ospreys, the centre made a hash of, pulling it to the right of the sticks.
As the clock moved into the final 180 seconds the Ospreys were awarded a penalty almost on halfway for holding on but Morgan’s attempt, had neither the length nor the direction.
With the difference still only a point, the decisive blow came in the final seconds when Quins were awarded another penalty, Botica’s long range effort securing the win.