The Ospreys romped to a convincing victory over Treviso at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night to keep alive their European hopes.
Ashley Beck grabbed two tries and the man of the match award, with Tommy Bowe and Kahn Fotuali’i also touching down, while the Ospreys also benefited from two penalty tries as reward for their dominance at the scrum.
The Ospreys got off to the ideal start with a try inside the first three minutes through Bowe. Treviso were on the attack, looking to move the ball across the field from a lineout midway inside the Ospreys half when the Irish wing read a Treviso pass perfectly to intercept to race clear from 80m out to score under the posts, Dan Biggar converting.
Treviso immediately reduced the deficit through a Kris Burton kick after the Ospreys were penalised for not rolling away. The Ospreys responded positively, Biggar taking advantage of a similar offence following a quickly taken free-kick to take the score to 10-3 on 9 minutes.
Just a couple of minutes later the visitors caught the Ospreys with a classic sucker punch through their own length of the field try, from scrum half Edoardo Gori. It came following a tremendous break from Bowe, taking the ball off Biggar in a congested midfield before scything through the Treviso defence before offloading to Justin Tipuric who found his progress halted 10m out.
As the ball was recycled, with the Ospreys in a good position, it squirmed out the side of the ruck where it was pinched by Gori who had a clear run up the touchline to score in the corner, despite the best efforts of Tipuric to get back. Burton was successful with his conversion attempt from out wide to level things.
Undeterred by the setback the Ospreys continued to look lively and a darting run by Rhys Webb took them into the Treviso 22, an offside decision giving Biggar a simple kick to put his team back in front.
Webb was the catalyst again just a couple of minutes later, cutting through the Treviso midfield with ease before recycling well, allowing Beck to canter over for the third Heineken Cup try of his short career. Biggar missed the conversion, leaving the score 18-10 to the Ospreys at the midway point of the opening half.
Within 10 minutes Beck was crossing for his second try, as he did at Wembley against Saracens last month, finishing off a good move that had seen the ball moved through numerous pairs of hands, Andrew Bishop’s offload in the tackle giving the former Aberavon centre the simplest of finishes. Biggar added a straightforward conversion, taking the lead to 25-10.
A missed touchfinder from Biggar allowed Treviso to come forward and enjoy some rare time in the Ospreys 22, and there was a collective sigh of relief on more than one occasion, first when a knock-on in the tackle halted Brendan Williams’ progress through the middle with the line beckoning, before Andrea Prattichetti was denied a try under the posts after referee JP Doyle ruled the final pass forward. However, the Ospreys were able to survive the final minutes without conceding, going into the changing room at the break with a 15-point lead.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 25 BENETTON TREVISO 10
Awarded a penalty for offside within seconds of the restart the Ospreys ignored the posts, Biggar going to the corner as they looked to secure a first try bonus point of the season in any competition.
Richard Hibbard and Webb found their way to the line halted, and when Franco Sbaraglini was pinged for offside the Ospreys again opted for the lineout. On this occasion they moved it left to right through the hands, Beck and Biggar linking well before the fly-half fed Bowe, hugging the touchline, who went over just a metre infield with two defenders hanging onto him.
The Touch Judge was right on the spot with a perfect view but he advised Mr Doyle to go upstairs for a decision, TMO Tony Spreadbury eventually ruling that the winger had been prevented from grounding after considerable deliberation.
The decision was an attacking scrum five and with the Ospreys dominant in that area they looked to turn the screw, opting to reset on several occasions as Treviso buckled under the pressure, conceding a number of penalties. Eventually the referee ran out of patience and headed under the posts arm aloft, the penalty try securing the bonus point, with Biggar adding the extras.
Treviso then served a warning to the hosts that the last half an hour wouldn’t be a walk in the park, openside Alessandro Zanni somehow being allowed to find a gap as wide as the River Tawe, and although the Ospreys were able to clear their lines on this occasion the visitors came straight back, and after Joe Bearman was penalised for offside, a quick tap and go led to second row Gonzalo Padro forcing his way over, Tobie Botes’ conversion seeing the scoreboard moving to 32-17.
With the game passing the hour mark the Ospreys changed the halfback pairing, Fotuali’i and Matthew Morgan replacing the impressive Webb and Biggar, and the Samoan almost made an immediate impact, his first involvement seeing going on a powerful burst from a lineout, eventually halted just a couple of metres short. As the ball was recycled, Shane Williams was out wide in space but Bishop’s pass to the wing was short and he knocked on trying to gather the ball at his feet.
The fifth Ospreys try came in the 69th minute and it was the half-back pairing at the heart of things again, running at a tiring Treviso defence. Morgan found gaps to pierce before offloading to Fotuali’i who was supporting well on his shoulder, and the scrumhalf went over for his first Ospreys try, Morgan’s conversion striking the upright.
By now the game was being played almost exclusively in the Treviso half, the impressive Beck again showing up well with ball in hand as he eluded a number of challenges before eventually being brought down just a few metres from the line.
To Treviso’s credit they refused to lie down and came back at the Ospreys, but a lovely flowing move that saw Morgan, Beck, and Jonathan Thomas all show good hands took the Ospreys back into opposition territory, Thomas putting Chauncey O’Toole through. The Candian, making his Heineken Cup debut off the bench had plenty of work still to do, and although he crossed the line he was held-up resulting in a scrum five to the Ospreys.
The respite was only temporary though as pressure from the hosts at the setpiece told once again. After several resets the Treviso scrum retreated at a rate of knots and although flanker Tom Smith remained in total control of the ball at the back of the scrum, and looking for a rare try, the decision was penalty try once again, Morgan converting to round off a good evening for the Ospreys.