The Ospreys were unable to repeat last weekend’s second half comeback, going down to a 24-14 defeat at a wet Liberty Stadium this afternoon.
Tries from Jamie Nutbrown and Dan Biggar weren’t enough as Gloucester made up for last summer’s 22-16 pre-season defeat at Kingsholm.
The first big test of the afternoon saw the Ospreys pack fronting up to their visitors as they tried to rumble forward from a line-out on the hosts 5m line, but the defence were able to hold firm, winning a scrum from which they were then awarded a penalty.
While the pitch looked immaculate for the first home game of the season, the monsoon weather of the last few days made ball-handling difficult and there were a number of dropped balls in the opening stages as both sides looked to make an early mark.
It was Gloucester who opened the scoring, a clever Nicky Robinson grubber allowing centre Henry Trinder to race through and ground despite the attentions of Tom Prydie, Robinson’s conversion making it 7-0 to the visitors with 10 minutes on the clock.
Robinson then spurned a kickable penalty, opting to go for touch after the Ospreys were guilty of playing the ball on the floor, and from the resulting line-out, they worked a position in front of the posts where the Ospreys were again penalised. This time the Wales fly-half took the straightforward option to add the three points.
It was the Ospreys who then twice decided against taking three points that were on offer, first being held up short of the line following sniping runs by Richard Fussell and Nutbrown. When Gloucester were penalised on their line, the Ospreys chose a scrum and almost got their first try when Fussell knocked on as he attempted to ground a clever Gareth Owen chip under pressure from James Simpson-Daniel.
Having dominated the opening exchanges, Gloucester were now struggling to get out of their own half, and two dazzling runs from Fussell and Owen took the Ospreys close to the line once again, only for the visitors to win turnover ball.
After soaking up considerable pressure, Gloucester struck back in style with a wonderful try that saw them move the ball the length of the field. Olly Morgan made a great break up the right wing, his progress finally halted by Prydie, and after sucking up the defensive cover there was a huge overlap to the left. The ball was worked out wide and then back infield, leaving England number eight Luke Narraway with the simplest of run-ins, Robinson again successful with the boot.
The Ospreys then got their first try of the afternoon through Nutbrown, the scrum-half showing good awareness to take the ball from a line-out and dart through the gap to score, Flanagan converting.
Ospreys tails were up and after Johnny May was forced into an error on his 22 the men in black pounced on the loose ball and worked it wide for Fussell, switching wings, who was halted a metre short.
With the clock showing 40 minutes there was room for one more score, which unfortunately went to the visitors, Matt Cox taking advantage of some ineffective Ospreys tackling to work his way over, Tim Taylor extending Gloucester’s lead.
HALF-TIME OSPREYS 7 GLOUCESTER 24
The Ospreys set about reducing the deficit straight from the restart, and almost scored within a minute, referee Tim Lewis ruling that Nikki Walker had been held up over the line after he looked to finish off a flowing move, the effective Fussell supplying the final pass.
The score did come though, the Ospreys showing good patience after the resulting scrum with several players attempting the pick and go before Biggar, on at the break for Flanagan, was able to twist and turn through the smallest of gaps to score before picking himself up to convert.
Gloucester’s Olly Morgan was then yellow-carded after tackling Owen in the air.
Only bad luck prevented the Ospreys scoring again with 58 minutes gone, Biggar spotting the lack of defensive cover for Gloucester and putting a grubber through. Both Biggar and Walker raced through and it looked certain that one of them would ground it between the sticks, only for the ball to strike the upright and bounce back into play, leaving the pair of them stranded as the Gloucester defence recovered.
As Morgan was preparing to re-enter the fray, the referee gave Craig Mitchell a talking to in front of skipper Sonny Parker for killing the ball, but the yellow card stayed in Mr Lewis’s pocket on this occasion.
The Ospreys needed to be up the opposition end if they wanted to claw their way back, but with ten minutes to go, for the first time in the half Gloucester were able to enjoy a lengthy spell of possession and territory. They patiently worked the ball back and forth across the pitch but they were unable to find a way through, Biggar getting a crucial tackle in on Simpson-Daniel, and Shane Williams, on for Fussell, was eventually able to clear.
With the clocking ticking down the Ospreys worked hard to find a way back into the game, but found it difficult to break down a resolute Gloucester defence despite dominating territory throughout the second half and the visitors were able to hold on for a win.