The Ospreys were defeated by Saracens at the HAC in the City of London in their final pre-season fixture.
It was a disappointing result for the region, from a contest where they failed to take their chances when they came and were duly punished by strong opposition who ended the game with a completely different 15 on the field than had kicked-off an hour and a half or so earlier.
In a very evenly balanced opening half hour, it was the visitors who threatened first, a scrum penalty allowing Dan Biggar an early shot at goal but he couldn’t find the target.
Sarries then attacked and Andrew Bishop did well to tackle Chris Wyles into touch 5m out after the Saracens wing had combined well with Alex Goode.
An accidental off-side decision against Rhys Webb then allowed Sarries to go to the corner, and after Rynier Bernardo had disrupted the driving maul attempt the ball was spread wide to the left where Josh Matavesi put in a big hit on Will Fraser, forcing the open side to knock on close to the Ospreys line.
With 15 minutes gone in what was looking a tight contest, Jeff Hassler thought he was through for the opening try after reading an attempted pass from Charlie Hodgson, plucking it out of the air at the second attempt on his own 10m line before setting himself for what it looked a straight run to the line. However, it was the Saracens who opened the scoring as the ref had been playing an advantage, ruling that the Ospreys had illegally brought down a maul, and fly-half Hodgson was able to slot over the first points.
There was still very little between the two teams, every breakdown being contested eagerly by both teams and the play taking place mainly between the 22s, but the Ospreys fell further behind when Saracens grabbed two quick tries either side of the half hour.
The first came after Hodgson opted to go to the corner from a penalty and although the Saracens pack were unable to gain any traction, great work from Brad Barritt allowed David Strettle to cross the whitewash, Hodgson converting.
Just three minutes later Billy Vunipola was the man who dotted down after a big drive from the home pack. The extras went begging, leaving it 15-0 to Saracens.
The Ospreys rallied well, enjoying a spell of concerted pressure as the break approached, and twice Canadian wing Jeff Hassler was held up just short while Eli Walker also excited the crowd with a jinking run on the opposite side. Saracens were able to keep the Ospreys out though, and when an Osprey hand was spotted interfering with the ball on the ground, Hodgson was able to round off the half with his second successful penalty.
HALF-TIME: SARACENS 18 OSPREYS 0
A bright start to the second half and an early Ospreys score was essential if they were going to stay in the game, and their first try came inside three minutes of the restart.
It came after another spell of positive rugby from the region, centres Matavesi and Bishop both carrying well, before good hands from Biggar and Hassler freed Tyler Ardron on the right, the big man having a simple finish to get the Ospreys side of the scoreboard moving. Biggar couldn't add the extras, his kick drifting to the left.
The coaches won’t be happy to have seen their team allowing Saracen to hit straight back, the ever dangerous Strettle making good ground up the right touchline before teeing up Richard Wigglesworth for the try. Hodgson’s conversion took the score to 25-5.
A powerful run from Dan Baker took the Ospreys into the Saracens 22, Webb then taking over before being halted inches from the line. Good scramble defence saw the home team winning the penalty, allowing them to clear the danger.
By now, both teams were starting to empty the bench, with Sarries in particular ringing the changes with an extra six men at their disposal, and the final quarter become a very scrappy and disjointed affair.
The fourth Saracens try duly arrived on 67 minutes, replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer darting over from close range before picking himself up to add the extras, and as the game faded away, it was the home team who rounded off the scoring with the last play of the game. It came from another replacement, Welsh international Rhys Gill, Saracens eventually creating a hole in the Ospreys defence after pulling them left and right.
Spencer brought the game to a close with the conversion, a second pre-season defeat for the Ospreys leaving Steve Tandy and his coaches plenty to think about before they welcome Treviso to the Liberty Stadium in two weeks for the GUINNESS PRO12 opener.