The Ospreys remain top of the PRO12 despite defeat at Parc y Scarlets in the first game of 2015.
The Scarlets were on top from the first whistle and were worthy winners, ending the region’s 17 game winning run against Welsh opposition in the competition, the defeat a first for the Ospreys in a PRO12 derby in just three days short of three years.
A late try from Dan Evans saw the Ospreys momentarily threaten an unlikely comeback but they left empty handed to start the new year in the worst possible way.
The Scarlets made a blistering start to the game, running Evans’ clearance back from deep with Liam and Scott Williams both making good ground with ball in hand inside the first minute. They duly took the lead early on through the boot of Rhys Priestland following an Ospreys offence at the breakdown.
The Ospreys looked to hit back instantly, Justin Tipuric doing good linkwork in midfield, looking to feed Hanno Dirksen on the right, only for the winger to have the door slammed in his face by Michael Tagicakibau.
The hosts should have extended their lead in the ninth minute after the Ospreys lost their own throw deep inside their own 22. The ball was moved swiftly across the field where a gap opened up invitingly for Priestland, only for Josh Matavesi to come from nowhere and dislodge the ball in the tackle as the outside half went for the line, allowing Ashley Beck to pick up and clear.
Referee John Lacey then showed yellow to Scarlets skipper Scott Williams for a high tackle on Scott Baldwin following the touch judges intervention, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
Within a minute the two sides were level, Dan Biggar making no mistake from some 42m out after the Scarlets were pinged for not rolling away.
There was then a lengthy delay while the officials reviewed two apparent misdeeds from the Ospreys, a high tackle on Aled Davies, followed by an alleged stamp, but with video evidence showing nothing, play was taken back for the original Scarlets penalty for bringing down the maul illegally. Priestland’s kick from the left drifted across the face of the posts and well wide to right of the sticks.
The first scrum didn’t come until into the 22nd minute and after it went down Dmitri Arhip was penalised. The Scarlets went to the corner where they tried unsuccessfully to get a drive going, so looked to move it across the field. The Ospreys defence prevented them making any real headway, Liam Williams looking dangerous with ball in hand though, but an offside allowed Priestland to put the home team back ahead.
The home team were taking a grip on the contest and their pressure eventually told when Liam Williams went over for the first try of the evening on 25 minutes.
It all began with a Scarlets scrum on halfway, the Ospreys appearing to win the ball only for the pressure to tell as Roberts was dispossessed as he tried to tidy up. From there the Ospreys were always looking stretched, Regan King and Scott Williams both carrying well, before Priestland drifted across field to feed his full-back, hitting the line at pace to dive over for the score. The score was 11-3 and that was how it remained after Priestland pushed his conversion wide of the posts.
It almost got worse for the Ospreys a ricocheting ball following Liam Williams’ chip forward in a busy midfield falling kindly for the Scarlets. It was hacked towards the line by Scott Williams and Aled Davies looked set to win the footrace ahead of Aisea Natoga but the challenge from the Fijian was enough to force the knock on as Davies slid over the line.
However the Ospreys were penalised at the resulting scrum and Priestland made no mistake this time to take his team 11 clear at the break.
HALF-TIME: SCARLETS 14 OSPREYS 3
The Ospreys found themselves trailing by 16 within a minute of the restart, Scott Williams with a stunning 50m break before offloading to name sake Liam. The fullback looked set to score but a desperate tackle from Natoga brought him down a couple of metres short. The Scarlets recycled quickly and flanker John Barclay crashed over from close range for a try that, like the first, went unconverted.
It has been a strangely ineffective attacking show from the Ospreys but the second Scarlets try sparked them into life, an Ashley Beck break up the left providing a platform to attack. Awarded a penalty for offside on the Scarlets line they went to the corner only to lose possession at the resulting throw.
Any thoughts of an Ospreys rally looked to be extinguished just before the hour, Priestland slicing the posts from the 10m line after another penalty against the visitors at the scrum.
The clock was ticking down and the Ospreys were struggling to find a way through the Scarlets defence, the hosts line rarely being threatened despite the visitors starting to enjoy more and more possession.
The pressure eventually told in the 68th minute when Dan Evans managed to force his way over the line despite the best efforts of three Scarlets defenders after great work by Matavesi. Biggar’s conversion saw the scoreboard move to 22-10.
Looking to build on that score the Ospreys kept plugging away, looking to bludgeon their way through, but their attack play was laboured and the Scarlets were able to standing to secure a comfortable win without too much difficulty.