The Ospreys put themselves firmly in the frame for a home PRO12 semi-final with an impressive win at the Katie Phillips Stadium, taking Glasgow’s place at the top of the table in the process.
In what was, at times, awful conditions, the two sides put on an impressive show for the second highest crowd of the season, a crowd which was just a couple of hundred shy of four thousand up on the previous all-time best for this fixture.
After a tight first half with nothing to separate the play-off rivals, the Ospreys burst into life and eye-catching tries in the third quarter from Ben John and Rhys Webb helped secured a crucial win, along with eight points from Dan Biggar and a rare three-pointer for Dan Evans.
Looking to impose themselves on the game from the off, the Ospreys were lively early on with Tyler Ardron and Josh Matavesi carrying well, but on more than one occasion carelessness saw the ball going to ground or being knocked on when the hosts were in a good position.
However, it was Glasgow who were handed the first opportunity to go for goal, after Ardron was penalised at the lineout, a decision met with universal disapproval among the home support. Fortunately for the Ospreys, Duncan Weir’s long-range kick never looked like finding the target.
The Scottish 10 then had another go after a penalty at the scrum, from 25m closer to goal. He made no mistake, putting Glasgow ahead on the 15-minute mark.
The Ospreys looked as though they had responded immediately with the first try as a well worked move from a lineout on the right first saw John being stopped short before Biggar burst through a gap to go for the line. He thought he’d grounded it, but the TMO was able to confirm that the combined efforts of Rob Harley and Niko Matawalu had prevented him getting it down.
Biggar had to leave the field for a head injury assessment after taking a bang to the head as he went for the line, Sam Davies temporarily replacing him. At the ensuing scrum Glasgow was penalised, and under the regulations, Davies was unable to take the kick so up stepped Evans to draw his team level at the midway point of the half.
It was a keenly contested affair with both sides looking to move the ball at every opportunity and Glasgow almost crafted an opening on the left, Stuart Hogg dinking it through for Matawalu to chase, but the winger was unable to claim his own follow-on kick.
With Biggar back on the field, the Ospreys then had to make a change in the back three as Jeff Hassler, returning from five months on the injury list, limped off with a hamstring problem.
Weir was then off-target with another long range effort from just inside his own half after Matavesi was pinged on the ground.
The Ospreys pressed in the closing minutes, looking to go in at the break with the lead, but Biggar missed with a drop goal attempt, leaving it all square.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 3 GLASGOW 3
The second half began in the same vein that the first had ended, with the Ospreys on the offensive, and hands in the ruck from Harley allowed Biggar to put his team ahead two minutes after the restart.
The Ospreys then set the Katie Phillips Stadium alight with the first try of the night, and it was a score of real beauty. They showed patience to go through multiple phases, making light of the wet conditions to move it through the hands at every opportunity, before the unlikely combination of Dmitri Arhip and Scott Baldwin created space for Matavesi. Running a great line, the centre slipped it to his midfield partner John who went over for the second consecutive game.
Biggar’s conversion struck the left hand post and bounced back into play, which meant the Ospreys led 11-3 with just over half an hour remaining.
At the other end it was Wier’s turn to hit the post five minutes later after the hosts had been penalised at a scrum close to their line.
By now the wind and rain was swirling around, conditions not favouring either team, but the Ospreys stretched their lead through Webb, the scrum half grabbing his 12th Ospreys try of the season and his 17th of the campaign in all.
It was a moment of magic, straight off the training paddock, as they worked a four man lineout move that foxed the Glasgow forwards, allowing Webb to burst through a huge gap before chipping over Matawalu and racing clear to score. Biggar added the extras.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to hit back, opting to go to the corner instead of the shot at goal, and they were duly rewarded as the pack rumbled over from close range. Chris Fusaro dabbed down, Weir converted, and the score was 18-10 to the Ospreys with 17 left on the clock.
The referee and TMO then somehow combined to deny the Ospreys anything on the Glasgow line after the bounce of the ball had beaten Matawalu, allowing Eli Walker to pounce and look to offload to Matavesi on his inside. It seemed clear that the Glasgow wing had tackled his fellow Fijian without the ball, tugging him back as he looked to collect the pass, but incomprehensibly the decision was scrum Glasgow.
The rain had eased but it was harem scarem stuff, and the Ospreys gratefully took a simple three points via Biggar’s boot from right in front of the posts after the pack had destroyed Glasgow’s scrum with just five minutes left.
Despite late Glasgow pressure the Ospreys were able to hold their line intact to deny the visitors what could have proven a crucial losing bonus point as they Ospreys secured their first win in this fixture since March 2011.