10 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes allowed the visitors to claim victory at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night, denying the Ospreys even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Jonathan Spratt’s first half try wasn’t enough to secure an Ospreys victory as the Blues two tries through Kristian Dacey and Macauley Cook, alongside 11 points from the boot of Simon Humberstone sealed the win for the visitor’s.
Both teams were testing each other out early, trying to find the upper hand in the early exchanges through box kicks. It was the Blues who struck first through a Simon Humberstone penalty, following an offside in the Ospreys defence.
In almost immediate reply, Matthew Morgan looked for a drop at goal, knowing he had a penalty advantage, which he narrowly missed. The young outside-half then stepped up to take the three-pointer but his kick struck the left-hand post.
Cardiff managed to make their way into the Ospreys half where Humberstone was on hand to punish them again. The Ospreys came close to grabbing the first try of the game as Dafydd Howells sliced through the Blues defence but he spilled the ball in a tackle. Morgan had an opportunity at goal, however, and he opened the home team’s account with three points.
A mistake from full-back, Jamie Murphy gave the Blues a lineout in the Ospreys twenty-two. A powerful driving maul provided the Ospreys with all sorts of problems before hooker, Kristian Dacey picked up and powered over to grab the first try of the game. Humberstone missed the conversion.
Dacey became the villain, though, as he came off his feet at his team’s ruck following the kick-off, gifting the Ospreys a penalty. Morgan’s penalty just missed but it wasn’t long until he had a chance to make amends from closer following a well-worked Ospreys attack into the Blues twenty-two. This time, he had no problem slotting the penalty.
A game of aerial ping-pong played out in Cardiff’s favour with a sliced kick from Tito Tebaldi giving the Blues some promising field position. After going through phase after phase and really testing the Ospreys defence, great work at the breakdown from open-side, Arthur Ellis earned his team a penalty and a chance to clear their lines.
With half-time looming, the Ospreys took the lead from absolutely nothing. A box kick from Tebaldi was gathered by Blues winger, Chris Czekaj, who looked to find Dan Fish with a pass. Instead, he found the Ospreys captain, Jonathan Spratt, who galloped the remaining 40 metres to the line unopposed. Morgan put the home team in the lead for the first time in the match as he added the conversion.
HALF TIME: Ospreys 13 Cardiff Blues 11
The second half started slowly with most of the rugby being played in between the twenty-two metre lines. An attacking move from a scrum saw Aisea Natoga come off his right wing, behind his teammates and almost slip through a gap in the defence. As the Ospreys came back infield, Tebaldi was prevented from playing the ball at the back of a ruck. Morgan had a shot at goal from the tee but missed the three point opportunity.
The game became a bit disjointed as the time went on but a crossfield kick from Matthew Morgan almost brought the crowd to life. Natoga was in space down the right flank with replacement Sam Davies in support but the Fijian winger failed to gather the ball.
As the Ospreys continued to look for their second try, the ball fell loose from a tackle as Joe Bearman went on the charge in the Blues twenty-two. The visitors’ second-row, James Down found himself in possession and he shipped it wide to Richard Smith. The winger had a lot of space in front of him but Morgan and Davies came across the field to bring him down as he got to the Ospreys twenty-two.
With just under ten minutes to go in the match, the possession and territory was in the Blues favour as they looked to claim back the lead. Robin Copeland led the way for his team as Cardiff made inroads into the Ospreys defence. A superb man and ball tackle from IRB young Player of the Year, Davies earned the home team a scrum, albeit on their own five metre line.
The Blues put pressure on the Ospreys scrum and as the ball popped out of the side, Macauley Cook was on hand to touch down to put Cardiff back in the lead. Humberstone added the two points to his team’s lead. The visitors looked to increase the lead and went on the attack again. Humberstone was happy to step back and drop a goal to pu the Blues more than a converted try ahead.
As the Ospreys looked to get back into the match, their attentions turned to getting a try as they opted for touch from a penalty. The driving maul looked threatening and neared closer to the line but it was brought down by Copeland who found himself in the bin as a result. Again, the Ospreys looked for the maul but the lineout was overthrown and the Blues escaped unscathed.
FULL TIME: Ospreys 13 Cardiff Blues 21
Ospreys backs coach, Gruff Rees said: “We’re bitterly disappointed because we clearly haven’t done enough in terms of building pressure and the Blues have done a job on us in a game, perhaps, they have no right to win. Twenty turnovers conceded is a massive stat in itself and the Blues capitalised on that to put points on the board when they had the opportunities.
We’re here to develop players but an important part of that is performing at an elite level and picking up wins. Individual players coming into the regional environment need to know the responsibilities that come with it. It shows there is a lot to learn for this group that is coming from the lower region of the Premiership and it’s about how we get them up to pro level and accelerate their development.”