The Ospreys went down to a narrow defeat against Northampton Saints in their opening LV= Cup fixture at the Liberty Stadium this evening.
Tries from Richard Hibbard and Jonathan Spratt weren’t enough to secure a win for the region, as the boot of Stephen Myler guided the visitors to victory.
The Ospreys were forced into a late change when Barry Davies pulled out with a back problem, which meant that Swansea RFC’s Nicky Thomas moved to full back on his first start for the region, Jonny Vaughton coming in on the wing.
Gareth Owen spurned two early chances to give the Ospreys the lead, sending his first minute penalty wide to the right of the posts and then seven minutes later just failing with a long range effort from inside his own half.
His opposite number, Stephen Myler, made no mistake in the 10th minute, as he marked the Saints first incursion into opposition territory with three points after the Ospreys strayed offside at the ruck.
The Ospreys were then grateful to the pace of Kristian Phillips, who managed to beat Chris Ashton to a grubber from Myler at the expense of a scrum five. However, having initially defended their line well, gaining a turn over under the posts, the home side failed to clear their lines adequately, allowing the Saints to come back up the flank, Ben Foden doing the initial damage before feeding James Cannon just a couple of metres out, who was able to reach over the line to ground the ball, Myler converting.
Clad in their new-look green 3rd shirt for the first time, the Ospreys were enjoying a decent share of possession, but all too often handling let them down at a vital moment. They were made to pay in the 32nd minute, when the Saints extended their lead after Tiatia was penalised for holding on, Myler once again slotting over with ease.
Ian Gough was forced to leave the field in the 35th minute with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, 19 year old Aberavon lock James King replacing him for his first ‘full’ Ospreys appearance after a brief outing as a blood replacement against Glasgow last weekend, before the Ospreys hit back with their first try of the night.
A flowing move saw the Ospreys spread the ball the width of the field, only for Thomas to run out of space on the far touchline, and from the resulting lineout 10 metres out, the Ospreys were able to put on a huge shove to drive Northampton back over their tryline, Richard Hibbard grounding for only his second ever Ospreys try in his 85th appearance, Owen adding the extras to make it 13-7 at the break.
HALF TIME: OSPREYS 7 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 13
The Saints got the first points of the second period, Myler kicking an easy penalty after Cai Griffiths had been penalised for bringing down the scrum.
A trademark Filo Tiatia charge from a quickly taken tap penalty then punched a hole in the Northampton defence, but the Ospreys were unable to take full advantage of the opportunity. They successfully recycled the ball through several phases amongst the pack close to the tryline, but when they finally tried to move the ball through the hands to take advantage of their extra numbers out wide, Phillips was unable to gather under the shadow of the posts.
Northampton were reduced to 14 in the 55th minute when prop Jon Vickers was sent to the sin bin for an offence in the scrum, before the Ospreys sent on Jonathan Spratt for Vaughton, and the Neath replacement made an immediate impact, scoring with his first touch following good work from Tiatia. Another rampaging run from outside the 22 by the former All Black saw him look certain to score, only for him to lose his footing a metre short, but he was able to feed Spratt who went over, Owen adding the extras to narrow the deficit to two points.
Ed Shervington replaced try scorer Hibbard with 61 minutes on the clock, and shortly after he was joined on the pitch by Ross Davies, the summer signing from Sale Sharks making his Ospreys debut in place of Cai Griffiths.
Myler them missed the opportunity to extend the visitors lead, his first miss of the evening proving a costly one, as within a minute Chris Mayor was penalised for not releasing, and after the referee James Jones moved it forward 10 metres for backchat, Owen comfortably slotted over to put the Ospreys in front for the first time, 17-16.
The lead was shortlived, Myler once again successful with a penalty attempt, before 20 year-old Aberavon back row Justin Tipuric became the third Ospreys debutant of the night when he replaced Filo Tiatia with 10 minutes remaining.
Myler had the chance to take his side further ahead as the clock approached 80 minutes, his long range penalty fading at the last moment, allowing the Ospreys one last chance to find their way back into it. They almost found a way through when Ashley Beck, on as a blood replacement for Andrew Bishop, combined well with Liam Davies, but the scrum half’s final pass failed to find Thomas on the wing and the chance of a last ditch victory was gone.