Updated: Apr 2, 2021
After a disappointing loss last time out to the Scarlets on Boxing Day, the Ospreys had to wait until the New Year to play again when they travelled up the M4 to the Cardiff City Stadium to face the Cardiff Blues. The Ospreys made six changes to their previous starting line up and several changes on the bench as Toby Booth rotated his squad. The Blues named a very strong side, making seven changes to their previous team that narrowly beat the Dragons on Boxing Day.
The Blues kicked off and the first quarter flew by in what could easily be described as a kicking contest with neither side willing to take any chances. It would be the Blues who scored first when they kicked a penalty and led 3-0 on twenty minutes. Scott Williams was replaced by Tian Thomas-Wheeler after what looked like a bad injury to a shoulder or arm.
The next ten minutes were largely spent between the two 22 metre lines as both teams continued to kick away possession in the hope of gaining a large amount of territory or a cheap turnover. The Ospreys won a succession of penalties with Myler kicking the latest one into the corner for an attacking 5metre lineout. Ifan Phillips hit Adam Beard and the Ospreys began their driving maul and it would be Phillips who gleefully crashed over the line for the opening try of the game. Myler converted and the Ospreys led 3-7 on 32 minutes.
The Ospreys continued in the ascendancy and looked dangerous with ball in hand with George North particularly powerful and threatening. His run from his own 22 took the Ospreys over the halfway line and Dan Lydiate was next to take the ball on but a knock on halted the Ospreys progress. In the stoppage, the TMO came in and called Foul Play so the incident was referred to the referee. He decided that Lydiate had led with his forearm and that it was worthy of a yellow card. The Blues kicked the resulting penalty to touch but the Ospreys were first able to defend the Blues maul and Phillips won a penalty allowing the Ospreys to tap and kick the ball to touch to end the half leading 3-7.
The Ospreys kicked off the second half and the Blues had the first opportunity to add points when they won a penalty in midfield and they went for the kick to touch but missed badly and the Ospreys were able to clear to touch. The Ospreys then had a scoring opportunity after the Blues got their running lines mixed up and gave away a penalty for crossing. Myler stepped up but pulled his kick wide of the posts and the score remained the same after forty-five minutes.
The Ospreys then won another penalty and Myler went for the corner again with Beard setting up another driving maul. The Blues were penalised for a maul infringement and this time Myler went for goal with the penalty and he was successful to increase the Ospreys’ lead to 3-10 after fifty-five minutes. Nicky Smith and Will Griffiths came on for the hard-working Rhodri Jones and Sam Cross who had both put in some important tackles.
A lovely short pass from Webb put Griffiths through a hole and he made a good twenty metres, and the Ospreys won a penalty after a Blues player did not roll away. This penalty was kicked to touch by Myler and Beard set up another Ospreys driving maul but before they could get over the line, a Blues player dragged the maul down, forcing the referee to firstly show that Blues tighthead a yellow card, and secondly to award the Ospreys a penalty try. With no conversion needed the score now read 3-17 after fifty-nine minutes.
The Ospreys kept the pressure on the Blues who struggled to get out of their own half as the Ospreys brought on Tom Botha and Scott Otten, making his first appearance of the season, for the industrious Fia and Phillips and the replacements helped the Ospreys win a penalty after dominating a scrum. Myler kicked the penalty to touch with Lloyd Ashley and Mat Protheroe coming on for Rhys Davies and the impressive North. However, the Blues were able to disrupt this driving maul and win a scrum but the Ospreys forced a turnover, went through a few phases close to the Blues line before Webb passed to Griffiths who tipped the ball on to Tipuric and he dived over the line in the corner. Between them, the referee and the assistant referee decided that it was no try and the TMO came in and confirmed this as Tipuric’s knee had just grazed the touch line. However, the referee went back for an earlier advantage and the Ospreys called a scrum. The Ospreys destroyed the Blues scrum, forcing the referee to show the Blues replacement tighthead a yellow card but, despite the pleadings of the Ospreys players, refused to award another penalty try on sixty-eight minutes.
The Ospreys kicked the penalty to touch and Webb looked to put the hard-running Kieran Williams through a hole, but the pass bounced off his shoulder and the chance was gone. There was no advantage, so the referee brought play back for a scrum. The first Blues tighthead had returned from his time in the bin, so the scrum was able to go ahead and the Ospreys eight won a free kick for an early drive. Packing down for another scrum was the right choice but the Ospreys would regret their decision when the Blues won the push and won a penalty. The Blues kicked the penalty to touch on seventy-two minutes and looked to set up a driving maul but resolute defence from the Ospreys forced a turnover and a scrum. Ifan Phillips was announced as the Player of the Match.
The final few minutes of the game were played out inside the Blues 22 as the Ospreys kept the pressure on their beleaguered opponents and almost scored from another driving lineout but the Blues managed to keep this maul out and won a scrum. The final play came from the scrum as Tipuric was quick to wrap up the Blues player and the ball and the referee adjudged that the ball was unplayable and blew the final whistle.
This was a solid way to start 2021 and the Ospreys were deserved winners keeping the Blues to just 3 points and hardly any visits to the Ospreys 22. Indeed, almost all of the second half was played inside the Blues half. Well done Ospreys and next up for them is the Dragons in eight days’ time. Coach Booth will be looking to build on this performance in the last of the festive season derbies.