The Ospreys moved back ahead of local rivals the Scarlets in the PRO12 table after a win over Treviso at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory saw them climb back into the fourth play-off spot on points difference, but the failure to turn dominance into a bonus point win means that it is still neck and neck between the two west Wales regions with just two games remaining of the regular season.
Dan Biggar scored 18 points, including a second half try, while Ben John touched down for his first senior points in bizarre circumstances on the stroke of half-time before Rhys Webb scored with the final play of the game.
There was a blow for the Osprey pre-match when scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i withdrew from the starting XV through illness and he was replaced in the team by Webb, who stepped up off the bench, Ross Jones joining the replacements.
Treviso were the first to trouble the scorers, Tobie Botes with a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts six minutes in after an offside decision against Joe Bearman.
The Ospreys almost had the perfect response, an Italian knock-on at the restart resulting in a scrum where the hosts were dominant, winning the penalty award to the left of the sticks. However Biggar’s kick came back off the right hand post.
A decent crowd in excess of 9,000 had braved the heavy rain that had fallen across Ospreylia all afternoon and they were making themselves heard as they backed the cause to the hilt.
Botes then had a chance to double Treviso’s lead after the Ospreys were pinged for holding on but his long-range effort dipped short underneath the crossbar.
On the midway point of the first half the Ospreys were awarded a kickable penalty between the 10 and 22m lines after the Treviso front row popped up in the scrum. Spotting a huge overlap on the left Biggar took a quick tap and go looking to exploit the extra numbers, only to be pulled back by referee Dudley Phillips to the annoyance of the home crowd. Given a second go, Biggar opted for the posts and made no mistake, levelling things on 20 minutes.
Just minutes later the Ospreys were in front, Biggar with his second penalty from just a few metres closer to the right hand touchline after Treviso had offended at a maul.
The game was struggling to find any real rhythm but slowly the Ospreys were starting to get on top and just past the half hour Biggar made it 9-3 after a penalty for coming in from the side.
The first try of the game came on the stroke of half-time and it went the way of the Ospreys John’s first senior try one of the most unusual you’ll ever see.
The initial break came from an attempted maul on the right from the hosts, Justin Tipuric peeling off the side to carry forward some 20m into the opposition territory. Once he’d been halted it was spun the width of the field to John who was bundled into touch a metre short as he took Fussell's pass and looked to slide in at the corner.
Treviso centre Tommaso Iannone then took a quick throw in to Botes, looking to clear from behind the tryline, but under huge presure from his opposite number Webb the scrum-half sliced his kick straight to alert John just metres in front of him who was positioned perfectly to gather the loose ball and dab down. The ref, who had missed all the action that had taken place behind his back, conversed briefly with his assistant before referring to the TMO who confirmed the score.
Biggar failed with his conversion attempt, leaving the Ospreys lead at 11 point at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 14 BENETTON TREVISO 3
The heavy rainfall had eased by the time the sides came back out and the Ospreys were soon on the front foot, a rolling maul from close to halfway giving them some go-forward, before the Treviso defence struggled to deal with Webb’s up and under into the 22.
The hosts pounded on the Treviso line, Jonathan Spratt, Richard Fussell and Ashley Beck all stopped short, before the Italians eventually won turnover ball. However, the respite was only temporary as aggressive defence from the Ospreys way up in the Treviso 22 forced the visitors into a mistake, Edoardo Gori spilling the ball under pressure which allowed Biggar to pounce for the second try, his conversion then taking the score to 21-3 with half an hour to go.
Treviso have proven time after time this season that physically they are a match for anyone and they showed that they weren’t going to go down without a fight as they stepped it up again, taking the game back to the Ospreys who had to be alert in defence to prevent the Italians making any real headway.
The visitor’s brief renaissance was brought to an end just after the hour when replacement Bees Roux was sent to the sinbin after coming in from the side, a team card after a series of Treviso offences. Immediately the Ospreys looked to take advantage of he extra man, spinning the ball across the field looking and Fussell looked to be in, sidestepping the last defender and crossing the line, only for the pass from Spratt to be ruled forward.
There was then a lengthy delay for Ryan Bevington to receive treatment after he was cleaned out at the side of the ruck, the prop eventually getting back to his feet to huge applause from the Liberty Stadium crowd as he left the field very gingerly.
Treviso were restored to their full complement without conceding any further points as the Ospreys crowd and players were growing increasingly frustrated at the ref’s aversion to penalising players going off their feet at the breakdown, the game eventually boiling over as the two packs came together.
ThBy now the Ospreys were running it from everywhere and anywhere but the third try only came with just 10 seconds left on the clock, Rhys Webb’s quick tap penalty giving him a simple run-in, Biggar’s conversion rounding off the evening.