Updated: Apr 2, 2021
A new kit, new coaches, and new players at the start of a new season could usher in the start of a new era under the new owners. There is some optimism in the Ospreys camp for 2020 with the newly appointed Toby Booth and Brock James sure to get the Ospreys playing a decent brand of rugby. There have been some good additions to the squad with Mat Protheroe and Rhys Davies both local boys returning to the Nest. Youngsters like Harri Morgan and Josh Thomas have also impressed and deserve to be in the mix.
So, the Ospreys flew to Scotland for their Pro14 opener v Edinburgh at Murrayfield. The weather meant the game would be played in challenging conditions.
The game kicked off and the Ospreys began by going through a few phases before conceding a penalty, which, fortunately for the Ospreys was missed to touch. Webb ranges wide as there was a potential overlap, but it was quickly closed down after the Ospreys missed their man with a few passes. This led to an Edinburgh turnover and a penalty that was also missed to touch. Some kick tennis ensues with neither team willing to risk playing expansive rugby. There is a succession of box kicks from both sides before the Edinburgh winger chances a return and makes a decent break into the Ospreys’ half. Webb manages to slow him down with an excellent ankle tap before Mat Protheroe makes a great try saving tackle, but he cannot prevent the offload. Instinctively, Justin Tipuric throws up his hand at the ball but can only knock it on. The ref checks with the TMO before sending Tipuric to the bin with a yellow card and awards Edinburgh a penalty try. 7-0 on 12 minutes and all of the Ospreys’ solid opening efforts have been cancelled out.
From the kick-off, the Ospreys concede another penalty at the ruck. However, Kieran Williams is downed by a high, stray boot and the ref checks an Edinburgh clean out with the watch stopped. The clean out is dangerous as Olly Cracknell is lifted beyond the horizontal. The penalty is reversed, and the Edinburgh 5 sees yellow. Stephen Myler kicks the penalty to touch and the Ospreys look to maul but they get driven back and an Edinburgh player is penalised for taking players out of the maul. The Ospreys go to the corner again and again make little or progress with the maul, but they do manage to move the ball into midfield where the forwards take the ball on and on. The pick and goes continue until Cracknell latches on to Nicky Smith and the pair drive over the line for Smith to score the first Ospreys try of the season. This is converted by Myler and this is some riposte from the Ospreys 7-7 after 17 minutes.
A minute later, the Ospreys win another penalty as Tipuric returns from the bin. However, even with the extra man advantage, the shot at goal is called and Myler slots the kick to make it 7-10. The next penalty goes to Edinburgh but the shot at goal is wide and the scorer remains untroubled. From an Ospreys 22 drop out, the Ospreys manage to retain possession and Webb puts Williams into the clear. He beats several Edinburgh defenders before passing to Protheroe who steps the last defender and dives over the line under the posts for his first ever and Ospreys second try. Myler converts and Ospreys now lead 7-17. The Ospreys win another penalty that Myler successfully kicks at goal and Ospreys now lead 7-20 after 35 minutes.
Another Edinburgh shot at goal is wide before the Edinburgh 10 finally lands his third penalty shot at goal with the last kick of the first half and after 40 minutes the Ospreys lead 10-20. That was some first half response from the Ospreys who produced excellent defence, the right rugby for the conditions and scored whenever they went deep into the Edinburgh half. Can they match it in the second half?
The box kicking of the first half continues as the second half starts and progresses with neither side willing to take any chances on expansive rugby. Cracknell charges down an attempted clearance kick but nobody is able to take advantage of the charge down. The Ospreys win a penalty at a scrum that Myler kicks to touch. The forwards set up a maul but get driven backwards only to win another penalty. This also goes to touch, and another maul is set up but this one fairs better before Webb goes down the blind side. He passes to Protheroe who outpaces the cover defence to score his second try in the corner. Myler’s conversion attempt is wide, but the Ospreys have increased their advantage to 10-25 meaning Edinburgh need three scores after 56 minutes. This score means it is time for a change as off goes Smith & Botha and on comes Rhodri Jones & Ma’afu Fia.
The great AWJ knocks on and looks at the ball in disgust giving Edinburgh a scrum and Edinburgh win a penalty as Fia loses his footing. This penalty is kicked to touch but from the lineout, Webb forces a knock on, and the Ospreys have the scrum. Despite being under pressure, Morgan Morris breaks from the base of the scrum and makes good metres before passing to Webb. He grubber kicks the ball on as the cover converges on him but the ball dribbles into touch. Cracknell and Beard go off and Lydiate and Bradley Davies come on. Edinburgh set up a maul, but it only results in yet another box kick that Morris catches and takes on the Edinburgh defence. Another Edinburgh knock on gives the Ospreys another scrum which is much better and wins a penalty. The Ospreys play on under advantage as Myler kicks across field, but it comes to nothing and Myler kicks to the corner. However, the Ospreys maul struggles yet again and Edinburgh win a turnover.
As the clock ticks into the 70th minute, the Ospreys have clearly decided to shut the game down and keep Edinburgh well inside their own half but on 76 minutes Webb hobbles off with an injury and Ruben Morgan-Williams comes on for him as well as Lake on for Parry and Thomas-Wheeler on for K Williams. Webb is announced as the TV Player of the Match and I have to agree with that. More resolute defence from the Ospreys as Edinburgh make an extremely rare foray into the Ospreys half and Thomas-Wheeler completes the turnover. This gives Ospreys the final scrum of the game and last play as Josh Thomas comes on for Myler. The clock is in the red, but the Ospreys go for one last attack. Morgan-Williams gives the ball to Josh Thomas who makes yards and passes the ball onto to Evans. He then passes to Protheroe and a final try might be in the offing but Protheroe cannot hold the pass and the ball goes into touch. The final whistle goes, and the Ospreys have won!!!! Yes, that is what I said – the Ospreys have won away for the first time in 18 months.
The box kicking from Webb was mostly on point, the Ospreys defence was strong and limited the Edinburgh attack to just the odd chance and Smith and Protheroe took their tries really well. This is not the time to dwell on the few negatives as this is a much-needed shot in the arm of confidence for the Ospreys who run out worthy winners 10-25.