Updated: Apr 2, 2021
The Ospreys went to their so-called ‘spiritual home’ at St Helens for their Pro14 Round 7 clash against Benetton Treviso. Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat, the Ospreys knew that an improvement in the error count and the accuracy count would be needed to beat the Italians.
The Ospreys kicked off and the returning George North looked like he was in the mood to play when he broke the Treviso line after an Ospreys lineout. North beat several defenders, drew the last man and looked to put Kieran Williams in for the opening try; but the ball did not reach Williams as the Treviso fullback stuck out an arm and deliberately knocked the ball on. The TMO became involved and seemed to suggest that a penalty try was on the cards, but the referee disagreed, awarding only a penalty and showed a yellow card to the Treviso 15. This, all within the opening two minutes. The penalty was kicked to touch, and the Ospreys began to maul their way to the Treviso line. A few of the backs joined in and Ifan Phillips drove over the line for the game’s opening try, converted by Myler, and the Ospreys led 7-0 after just three minutes.
Treviso were awarded a penalty when Tom Botha was adjudged to have gone off his feet and Treviso went for touch. Rhys Davies did well to force a turnover at the ensuing Treviso maul, but he was immediately penalised for holding on and again Treviso went for touch. The Ospreys sacked the Treviso jumper before they could form a maul, but Treviso retained possession and went through several close quarter phases before their hooker scored a close range try which was converted to make it 7-7 after 9 minutes.
The rest of the half was littered with errors and a lack of accuracy as neither team could gain the ascendancy but the Ospreys did come close to scoring again when Luke Morgan kicked through but neither he nor Protheroe could pick up the ball for the score.
The game was now a titanic arm wrestle as both defenced were on top and neither attack was able to find the required space to make a break and it was the Ospreys who would end the half in the lead when they won a penalty, that Myler sent through the posts to make it 10-7 just on the half time whistle.
The second half started in the worst possible fashion for the Ospreys when Morgan-Williams’ clearing box kick was charged down, immediately putting the Ospreys on the back foot with Treviso regaining possession. A tentative kick through the defence was covered by Myler and he cleared to touch, giving Treviso the lineout. They set up a driving maul that looked set to cross the Ospreys try line, but Will Griffiths came in at the side and pulled the maul down. The referee showed Griffiths a yellow card and from the ensuing line out, Treviso mauled their way over the line for a try, which was not converted, and Treviso now led 10-12.
Things continued to go downhill when Treviso added to their score with a penalty after Protheroe was isolated under his own posts to increase the lead to 5 points at 10-15. The Ospreys changed their entire front row with Thomas, Phillips and Botha going off for R Jones, Lake and Fia.
Things then hit rock bottom after Treviso were awarded a penalty for holding on. There was a Treviso player down injured and during the stoppage, Olly Cracknell came on for Gareth Evans. The TMO came in and alerted the referee to a reckless challenge at the ruck. Gareth Evans had charged into the ruck and his head made contact with a Treviso player’s head. I have no idea what else Evans could have done with his head, but the referee had no option but to call him back on to the pitch, negating the Cracknell substitution, and show him the red card. Harsh or not? You can make up your own minds.
Fortunately, for the Ospreys, Treviso looked to have scored again from the lineout after the penalty was kicked to touch but the assistant referee called a forward pass and Ospreys were awarded a scrum. Cracknell now came on again, but for captain Lydiate with Myler taking over the reins.
However, things did not improve for the Ospreys when Treviso went wide from a lineout after another holding on penalty was given against the Ospreys. Their winger kicked through forcing North into a try-saving tackle, but Treviso retained possession and their hooker scored his and Treviso’s third try. The try was converted and now with an extra man, Treviso led 10-22 with just 21 minutes left on the clock and Sean Venter came on for Morgan-Williams. The contact play from the Ospreys was not very good with Treviso able to get over the ball and secure penalty after penalty and the accuracy and basics were also not up to scratch. The question on everyone’s lips was would the Ospreys cave and let Treviso have a bonus point win or could they, somehow, force their way back into the game.
The answer was almost found in the latter when a sustained period of Ospreys pressure caused the Treviso scrum half to take too long to play the ball and the Ospreys were given a scrum. However, a mis-control at the base of the scrum allowed the Treviso fullback to break and gain 50 metres before an Ospreys tackler brough him down and forced a knock on. With the referee playing advantage, the Ospreys moved the ball quickly through the hands, Kieran Williams passed to Morgan who beat his man before returning the pass to Williams and he had the simple task of passing to the supporting Venter who ran in untouched for the Ospreys’ second try which was converted by Myler to make the score 17-22 with just 8 minutes left on the clock. Luke Ashley was now on for Rhys Davies.
Now, the Ospreys seemed to be galvanised and began to step up the pace and intensity of their game and Treviso seemed to struggle. The Ospreys won a penalty after a reset scrum went down again and the referee penalised the Treviso prop. Myler kicked to touch and the Ospreys were on the attack again. Williams drove the ball into midfield and was tackled by the Treviso player who did not use his arms. With this being the third such offence, the referee showed the Treviso player a yellow card and awarded the Ospreys a penalty that Myler kicked to touch just 5 metres from the try line. This was likely to be the Ospreys final chance at getting back into the game and the pressure was on Lake who had already failed at two previous lineouts. However, he stayed cool under pressure, found his jumper and the Ospreys began to maul their way, inexorably towards the Treviso line. Again, a few of the backs added their weight to the maul and the Treviso defence had no answer as Lake carried the ball over the line for the Ospreys’ third try. Myler had the simple kick to put the Ospreys ahead for the first time in the second half and his kick was straight through the posts to give the Ospreys, what seemed like twenty minutes ago an unlikely thought, a 24-22 lead with just ninety seconds left on the clock.
Treviso kicked off and the Ospreys were able to see out the remaining time by going through the phases until Venter passed the ball back to Myler who gleefully kicked it into touch. The final whistle blew, and the Ospreys had pulled themselves out of a massive hole to come back and win the match 24-22.
There were lots of errors by the Ospreys and their basics were not accurate enough but credit has to be given to this young Ospreys team who were dragged back into the match through the invention of Protheroe and Morgan, the hard running of North and K Williams and the introduction of Venter and the rest of the Ospreys bench. There will be lots to work on in the next few training sessions but again, there are positives to be taken from this game, none more so than the Ospreys forcing their back into a game that previously they would have lost.