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Benetton V Ospreys Match Report

After a very disappointing home loss against the Cell C Sharks, last time out, the Ospreys travelled to Italy to face Benetton making several changes some of which were enforced and others positional. The much-changed team saw several players making their first start of the season, with Rhodri Jones alongside Elvis Taione and Tom Francis in the front row. AWJ and Bradley Davies combined in the second row with a new look back row comprised of Olly Cracknell, Sam Cross and Ethan Roots. Rhys Webb and Stephen Myler were the half-backs with Kieran Williams and Owen Watkin in the centre. The back three saw Alex Cuthbert make his Ospreys debut alongside Luke Morgan and Max Nagy at 15.

The Ospreys kicked off and were immediately under pressure when they conceded a 50:22 giving Benetton an attacking lineout in the Ospreys 22 but a knock-on conceded possession to the Ospreys, but the Ospreys only succeeded in putting the ball in to touch to give Benetton another attacking lineout from which they won the first penalty of the match. This was kicked to touch for another Benetton lineout where they set up a maul. The Benetton hooker drove off the back of the maul and bounced off two Ospreys defenders to score the opening try. This was converted and after just six minutes, Benetton led 7-0.

The Ospreys’ discipline continued to let them down as they gave away a succession of penalties. One of these was taken quickly and the Benetton winger looked to have scored in the corner but when the TMO checked, a brilliant try-saving tackle from Cuthbert had put the winger into touch first. Another infringement saw Morgan shown a yellow card.

The Ospreys were under pressure for much of the first quarter and part of the second quarter, but they began to get a foothold in the game when they won their first penalty on twenty-nine minutes. Myler kicked to touch, and the Ospreys set up a maul and won another penalty when Benetton infringed again. Myler kicked to touch again but at the lineout Benetton stole possession and cleared but the kick went out on the full. From the resulting lineout, the Ospreys ran the ball back at the Benetton defence and Watkin broke the line before passing to Morgan who passed inside for Nagy to power over the line for the Ospreys first try. The conversion was wide and after thirty-three minutes it was 7-5.

Minutes later, the Ospreys crossed again when Webb dummied his man, broke the line before a cheeky behind the back pass put Roots in the clear for a lovely try. This time, Myler converted, and the Ospreys now led 7-12.

There was almost a third score right on half time, but the Benetton winger just got to the ball before Morgan and the half-time whistle blew.

The second half started with Benetton kicking the ball straight out on the full. From the resulting scrum, Webb fed Watkin who raced away and returned the pass to Webb who raced in from twenty metres for the Ospreys third try of the match, Myler added the conversion and the Ospreys now led 7-19.

Things got even better for the Ospreys when between them, Morgan and Webb got behind the Benetton defence and Webb crashed over for the fourth Ospreys try. Myler added the conversion and after forty-eight minutes, the Ospreys led 7-26. This was some turnaround from the Ospreys who were hardly in the game until their first penalty.

It was Benetton who scored next after some fine work by their outside half. He chipped the ball over the Ospreys defence, collected the ball and dotted down for the try which he also converted to make the score 14-26 after fifty-three minutes. Nicky Smith and Morgan Morris came on for R Jones and Cracknell.

Benetton then scored the try of the match after a scintillating run from their winger. He beat several Ospreys players and scored in the corner to make it 19-26 after the conversion was missed on fifty-nine minutes.

The Ospreys kicked off and immediately conceded a penalty for a high tackle by Cuthbert. The TMO came in and suggested foul play but while this was happening, the Ospreys made a raft of substitutions with Mat Protheroe and Joe Hawkins replacing Cuthbert and Williams in the backs and Tom Botha and Ifan Phillips replacing Francis and Taione in the pack. The Referee adjudged there to be foul play and would have shown Cuthbert a yellow card but as he had gone off, showed it to Protheroe instead, taking the Ospreys down to fourteen players again.

Benetton kicked to touch and set up a maul, but the Ospreys were able to stop it and forced Benetton to go infield. The referee penalised the Ospreys for being offside and Benetton called for a scrum. Meanwhile, Webb and Roots were replaced by Ruben Morgan-Williams and Rhys Davies. From the scrum, Benetton went wide, and their winger scored their fourth try, the conversion was successful, and the scores were level with just thirteen minutes left to play.

Both sides were practically out on their feet but there was still time for drama as the Ospreys were awarded a penalty after a swinging arm in the tackle. Myler stepped up and took a shot at goal, but his kick sailed wide.

The Ospreys won another penalty and this time Myler kicked to touch where the Ospreys set up a driving maul, and Benetton were penalised for coming in at the side. Again, Myler stepped up for a shot at goal and this time, his kick sailed between the posts to make it 26-29 with just five minutes left. Could the Ospreys hold on or would Benetton come back again?

The answer to that question came at the kick-off when Morris was clattered into by an off-balance Benetton player and Morris, who was in the air at the time, landed badly on his back. Fortunately, he was okay to continue and after consulting the TMO, the referee awarded the Ospreys a penalty. This was kicked to touch by Myler and then the Ospreys managed to maintain possession through several close quarter phases and as the clock ticked past the eighty-minute mark, Myler smashed the ball into touch for a hard-fought Ospreys win.

I would give Rhys Webb the Player of the Match who showed that, although he has lost a yard of pace, he can still be a vital weapon in the Ospreys armoury. Next up for the Ospreys is a home game against Munster next Saturday. The Ospreys will need a much better start to that game and their discipline will need to improve or else Munster will punish them.

Final Score – Benetton 26 Ospreys 29

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