The Ospreys were defeated on a soggy evening at the Gnoll, with all the points on the night coming from the boot as Saracens’ clinical edge proved the difference between the sides.
Scrum-half Ben Spencer kicked all of Saracens points, with a return of seven from nine, while Sam Davies kicked three penalties for an Ospreys team featuring six debutants.
Ahead of the game there was an impeccably observed silence in memory of our fallen soldiers ahead of Remembrance Sunday, accompanied by a faultless solo of the Last Post.
With the heavens emptying over the Gnoll ahead of kick-off it meant that handling would prove difficult for both sides, and it was after Aisea Natoga failed to collect a simple high ball that the visitors grabbed the first points of the night six minutes in.
Scrambling to clear, Richard Fussell’s kick was half charged down, ricocheting off Dafydd Howells into touch for a Saracens line-out, from which the visitors were awarded a penalty, which Spencer slotted over.
Spencer then doubled the lead in the 10th minute, the Ospreys penalised for bringing down a maul illegally.
The Ospreys hadn’t had a chance as yet to threaten their opponents, but within three minutes they were on the scoreboard, winning a penalty for a similar offence, which Davies duly put through the sticks.
Saracens were reduced to 14 just short of the 20th minute when winger George Perkins was yellow carded after taking Howells out in the air as the Ospreys teenager looked to collect midway inside his own half.
Just two minutes later the Ospreys were level, Davies making no mistake from out on the right after a Saracens offside.
The rain had now eased off, albeit temporarily, but Davies was unable to hand his side the lead on 26 minutes, his long range kick just dropping short of the posts.
Spencer then brought up the half hour with his third successful kick to nudge his team back ahead following an Ospreys offside, and a couple of minutes later he took the lead to six points after an ominous looking rolling maul was halted by illegal means.
Conditions meant that we hadn’t seen much by the way of running rugby from either side, but the Ospreys almost worked the first try of the game just a minute or so from the break.
A penalty on halfway for offside allowed Davies to put his team in the corner, and after the first attempt at a drive saw Sarries penalised, the Ospreys went again. This time they looked to have found their way over across the line only for Lloyd Evans to lose control of the ball forward as he attempted to dot it down.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6 SARACENS 12
With the torrential rain returning with a vengeance, Saracens pressed after the restart and they were handed an early chance to add to their score after Ospreys debutant Gareth Thomas was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Matt Hankin. This time though Spencer pushed his kick wide to the right of the posts.
Despite being a man short the Ospreys then enjoyed their best spell of the game, some good chasing down work from Natoga putting Saracens under pressure as they tried to relieve the pressure deep inside their own half. Eventually the penalty went the Ospreys way and Davies put the kick over with no problems.
Restored to 15, Ospreys then conceded almost immediately, replacement Nicky Thomas’ first involvement seeing him pinged at the breakdown, allowing Spencer to kick his fifth penalty of the night. With 57 minutes gone, the score was 9-15 in the visitors favour.
Spencer continued his impressive showing with the boot two minutes later, Saracens scrum gaining the upper hand to give him another shot at goal with the same outcome.
He then tried a long-range effort from inside his own half and although he had the direction, the ball dropped under the crossbar at the last moment.
It was far from a classic with weather induced errors on both sides, the difference between the two teams being Spencer's clinical kicking which kept the scoreboard ticking over every time Saracens even got to halfway. In contrast, the Ospreys had been guilty of leaving opposition territory empty handed far too often.
To their credit though, the hosts kept going and an impressive run and kick chase from Natoga put the Ospreys back in the danger zone, Perkins doing well to get back towards his line and hold off the challenge of the chasing Fijian and Fussell.
With the clock ticking down the Ospreys were applying pressure, probing the Saracens defence from all angles, without finding a way through. Tempers had looked a little frayed on more than one occasion in the second half, but they then boiled over five minutes before time as the two packs clashed following a penalty against the Ospreys at the scrum.
Any lingering hope of a late comeback were quashed when Spencer sent over his seventh penalty of the night with the clock showing 78 minutes, a long ranger after the Ospreys offended on the floor, making the final score Ospreys 9 Saracens 21.