Despite falling short on the night, the young Ospreys went down fighting in a high-tempo game that demanded full commitment, as the Scarlets took the honours in a 16-point victory.
After welcoming the Scarlets U16s Combined to St. Helens, the Ospreys U16s Combined were unable to overcome their tough opposition despite their positive opening exchanges and committed performance throughout, meaning that they suffered defeat on home-turf.
The Ospreys were quick to dominate possession during the opening exchanges, as they applied the pressure and played a quick-tempo game. These efforts went reward as due to their quick hands, they were the first to get the scoreboard moving with less than five-minutes on the clock as Ospreys’ left winger Tommy Payne picked up from a ruck and used his speed to cross the line in the corner from close range for an unconverted try, taking the hosts into an early lead.
The Scarlets fought back and took the ball up into the Eyasses’ 22, but the hosts’ defence held tight.
Both sets of teams looked to punch holes in midfield, drawing in each other’s defence and then putting the ball wide, hoping to create an overlap– making it a very even opening 15-minutes as both defences were tested.
Some handling errors by the Scarlets allowed the Ospreys to relieve the pressure that they were absorbing from the boys in red. With the ball going wide to the open side, this saw Cori Lewis-Jenkins pick up the ball in midfield and use his speed to break away and cross the whitewash under the sticks, successfully converted by Dan Edwards, extending the young Ospreys lead to 12-0.
As the handling errors continue for the Scarlets, this allowed the young Ospreys to pressure their line. From set pieces, the young Ospreys put the ball behind the Scarlets’ defence, driving them back into their own 22.
However, the visitors gather themselves and slowly drove the Ospreys back into their 22. Both teams engage in a very high tempo game, filled with quick taps and goes.
With 30-minutes on the clock, the Scarlets were awarded a penalty and from a Scarlets’ lineout on the Ospreys’ five-metre line, saw them set up and drive towards the Ospreys’ line only to once again lose the ball in contact, and were unable to complete the final phase. The visitors then passed the ball out wide to the open side and looked to spot a hole in the Ospreys’ defence. However, a break from the Ospreys saw them attempt to relieve the pressure and break out of their half, but a big hit from the Scarlets prevents this from being executed.
In the minutes of last play before the half-way mark, the Scarlets were rewarded for their persistent pressure. Through pick up and goes, the visitors sucked in the Ospreys’ defence into midfield which allowed Ryan King, from a ruck, to drive over the whitewash just out wide of the posts for the Scarlets’ first try of the game, successfully converted by Osian Evans to close the deficit as the half-time whistle blew and the boys left the field for the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS U16S COMBINED 12 – 7 SCARLETS U16S COMBINED
From the restart, the Scarlets were on the attack. With less than two minutes into the second-half, a drop pass by the young Ospreys saw Harry Williams pick up the ball on the half-way line and pin his ears back down the narrow side to cross the whitewash in the corner for a break-away try, Wainwright with the extras to nudge the visitors into a narrow lead: 12-14.
The scoreboard began to reflect the mood on the pitch, as with the slight lead, saw the Scarlets play with increased confidence.
With 45-minutes on the clock, the Ospreys rung the changes in an attempt to make the fresh legs count.
A Scarlets’ defensive line out saw them miss their target and as a result, the Ospreys were able to attack the visitors’ line as they now set up camp in the Scarlets’ 22. This was shortly followed by the Scarlets’ making several tactical changes.
The fortunes quickly changed as the Scarlets capitalised on their fresh legs and entered into the Ospreys’ 22. From a ruck, this saw Archie Hughes show and go to slice through the hosts’ defence and dab down under the sticks, Wainwright slotting the extra 2 to take the Scarlets into a 9-point lead: 12-21.
This was quickly followed by a consecutive Scarlets’ try as they were playing with their tails up. The visitors capitalised on the Ospreys’ lineouts beginning to fail as they regained possession and through quick hands, Wainwright grounded a loose ball in the corner to push the visitors further into the lead. The young full-back picked himself back up to successfully convert and take the score to 12-28.
From the restart, the Scarlets, who were now playing with confidence and control, played an expansive game in their attempts to punch holes through the Ospreys’ defence, which remained solid.
Through a Scarlets’ infringement, the Ospreys were awarded a penalty and saw Edwards kick deep for touch. From a hosts’ lineout on the five-metre line, Scarlets found themselves under pressure as the Ospreys looked to find a way through the visitors’ defence.
In the dying minutes, the Scarlets were reduced to 14-men as Evan Sheldon was yellow carded for a high dangerous tackle. The Ospreys now looked to capitalise on this extra-man advantage as they were now playing rugby in the correct areas of the field.
Unfortunately, despite their early advantages and their committed efforts throughout, the Ospreys fell short of the Scarlets as they struggled to break down their defence in the latter stages of the match. The visitors proved too strong on the night for the young Ospreys as they took victory over the home-team.
FULL-TIME: OSPREYS U16S COMBINED 12 – 28 SCARLETS U16S COMBINED