A last minute touchline conversion from Sam Davies completed an impressive comeback as the Ospreys finished their LV= Cup campaign with a 37-36 win over Sale Sharks at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field
Aisea Natoga scored the injury time try to set up Davies, as he recorded a hat-trick of touchdowns - as did fellow Pacific Islander, Viliami Fihaki, for Sale. Dan Baker also touched down for the Ospreys as they secured a bonus point win, overturning a 16 point second half deficit in the process. In total, Davies kicked 17 points for the Ospreys, while Mike Haley and Charlie Ingall also touched down for Sale.
It took only a few minutes before Sale Sharks opened the scoring. Andy Forsyth almost slipped through a gap in the midfield but was brought down by Sam Davies. The visitors remained patient and it wasn’t long before number eight Fihaki crashed over from the back of a maul. Joe Ford added the extras to give his team an early seven point lead.
The Ospreys hit back immediately with Scott Baldwin and Matthew Jenkins offering to carry the ball into the heart of Sale’s defence. Sam Davies had the opportunity to open his team’s account and he duly delivered with his opening penalty.
Davies was then instrumental in the next score, playing off the cuff rugby as he looked to clear his lines, the pressure from Sale preventing him from clearing and forcing him to run it from deep inside his 22. The outside-half found a gap and galloped into the opponents half, finding Richard Fussell in support. He popped off to his captain Jonathan Spratt but the centre was pulled down short. After a quick ruck, the ball was shipped wide to Aisea Natoga who dived over in the corner. Davies converted.
Sale worked their way into the Ospreys half, turning down the option for three points and kicking to the corner. The visitors set up a powerful driving maul and Fihaki popped up to score his and his team’s second try of the match. Ford struck his second conversion as Sale regained the lead.
It was the visitors with all the momentum and looking likely to score another try but the Ospreys worked their way into their opponents twenty-two with the help of some ill-discipline at the scrum from the Sharks. The Ospreys patiently went through the phases but were unable to break down the Sale defence before being awarded a penalty. Captain Spratt chose to take the points unlike the opponents and Davies slotted the three.
The Sale backs looked to run the ball but they couldn’t hold on to the slippery ball. As the ball fell loose, Tom Grabham hacked it through and started chasing. Some quick acceleration from Mike Haley put the pressure on Grabham and the Sale played managed to get to the loose ball ahead of the Ospreys winger to prevent the try.
Joe Ford dinked the ball just behind the Ospreys defence and it looked as if the ball had been gathered by Fussell before it spilled loose. It was Fihaki who emerged with possession and was tackled just short of bagging his hat-trick try. Charlie Ingall was the man who finally touched down for Sale as a few quick passes put him over out wide. Ford added the extras.
Sale Sharks were playing with their tails up, making many yards through their powerful driving maul providing Ford and his backs with the platform to attack. The skipper, Mark Easter linked up nicely with the backs in the twenty-two before Phil Mackenzie came close to scoring. But it was that man Fihaki who finally clinched his hat-trick and the bonus point for the Sharks as he barrelled his way over from close range. Ford added the two points.
HALF-TIME: Ospreys 13 Sale Sharks 28
Sale were on the attack and looking to increase their lead straight from the off, but when the Ospreys secured a quick turnover in their 22 Lloyd Evans got around the Sale defenders to break down the line. Grabham was in support and he managed to cut inside Haley and looked sure to score but a stumble slowed him down and he was dragged down short. Tom Habberfield released the ball to Davies before he flicked it on to Natoga who grabbed his second try of the match. Davies added the easy two.
Sale hit back immediately as they ventured into their opponents half. The ball came to fullback, Mike Haley who drifted outside the Ospreys defence, battling through some poor tackling to touch down out wide. Ford missed his first kick of the match but soon made amends through an easy penalty, stretching the lead to 16 points.
The rain started to fall as the Ospreys looked to find a way back into the match but they managed to keep hold of possession, battling their way up to their opponents try line. Dan Baker powered his way over near the posts to bring the Ospreys back into the match. Davies converted.
Ospreys had a bit of confidence about their play, driving their way into the Sale 22. The maul was brought down by Sale and Davies slotted a quick three points to reduce the visitors lead to six points with 11 minutes to play.
As the Ospreys looked for a crucial try, Habberfield looked to speed up the play with a quick tap from within his own half. Sale substitute, Ross Harrison prevented the scrum-half from doing so and was sent to the sin bin.
With confidence flowing through the Ospreys team by this stage they were looking to attack at every opportunity. New signing Perry Parker went close to a debut try, the ball being dislodged in the tackle as he tried to barge his way over from close range. With the home team battering the Sale defence, Matthew Morgan then crossed the line at the end of another flowing Ospreys move only to be brought back after the final pass just five metres out was ruled forward.
Then, after Morgan Allen was brought down close to the Sale line the visiting defence were guilty of killing the ball at the breakdown and found themselves down to 13 men as Marc Jones joined Harrison in the sin bin.
With a two-man advantage, the Ospreys went for the scrum. Sale opted to put eight players in the scrum leaving them short in the backs but the Sharks managed to earn a penalty at the scrum - before it transpired that the visitors still had 14 men on the field after not removing player following the return of hooker Dan Baines for the scrum. Head Coach, Steve Tandy was furious, remonstrating with the officials on the touchline.
The Ospreys were still battling for that all-important try as the clock moved towards 80 and Natoga came close to grabbing it but he was stopped short.
Finally, the Ospreys made the advantage show from a lovely scrum move, with Tom Grabham finding Morgan on the runaround before skipper Spratt floated a pass out to the Flying Fijian, Natoga, to clinch his hat-trick in the corner. Sam Davies had to slot a difficult touchline conversion to seal the win for his team and the outside-half did just that, with the final kick of the game to secure a memorable win in the Bridgend rain to send the supporters home happy.
FULL TIME: Ospreys 37 Sale Sharks 36