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Ospreys V Newcastle Falcons. Challenge Cup last 16

With the Pro14 wrapped up, the Ospreys’ attention turned to Europe and the Challenge Cup last 16 fixture at the Liberty Stadium against the Newcastle Falcons. The Team Wales were back, and the Ospreys named a strong side to play in the glorious early Spring sunshine.

The Ospreys kicked off and went to work straight away. George North made a good run and put the Ospreys on the front foot, allowing Kieran Williams to break the Newcastle line. The Ospreys went through a couple of phases before a lovely piece of handling from Ma’afu Fia saw the ball go to Alun Wyn Jones. He offloaded out of the tackle to Justin Tipuric and in turn he passed to Luke Price who had the simple job of drawing the man and passing to Williams for the game’s opening try on 8 minutes. Price added the conversion to give the Ospreys an early 7-0 lead.

Minutes later, a Newcastle overthrown lineout gave the Ospreys cheap possession, and they went wide to Keelan Giles. He made 30 metres before chipping ahead but the bounce of the ball evaded everyone except Owen Watkin, and he got close to the line before passing to Dan Evans who had the simple task of falling over the line for the game’s second try. Price again added the conversion and the Ospreys led 14-0 after 13 minutes.

Leading on the scoreboard and in key statistics like territory and possession, the Ospreys had the chance to kill off the game but two pieces of inaccuracy at the lineout cost them and good, attacking chances went begging.

Newcastle then began to find a foothold in the game but two fine turnovers from Tipuric were enough to blunt the Newcastle attack. Things went bad for the Ospreys in the 33rd minute when Tipuric was somewhat harshly shown a yellow card for a no arms tackle on the Ospreys line. Yes, Newcastle were playing under advantage, but this was Newcastle’s first real visit into the Ospreys 22 and the referee decided it was a yellow card. Newcastle made the most of their extra man and scored in the corner and the conversion was successful to cut the lead to 14-7.

A poor pass from the Ospreys went to ground and Newcastle kicked the ball long. Fortunately for the Ospreys, Evans was there to tackle the Newcastle winger into touch, else he would have scored. The Ospreys turned the ball over for the third time at the lineout and Newcastle won a penalty that was kicked to touch to set up an attacking lineout. From the lineout, Newcastle set up a maul that drove towards the Ospreys line. Adam Beard looked to have worked his way through the middle of the lineout and stopped a try, but the referee adjudged him to have stopped the maul illegally and awarded Newcastle a penalty try and showed Beard a yellow card putting the Ospreys down to 13 men. 14-14 after 38 minutes. With two extra men, Newcastle looked to take advantage, but the Ospreys were able to hold out for the half time whistle.

The second half started with the Ospreys still down to 13 men and from a Morgan-Williams box kick, Newcastle decided to attack instead of kicking. This caught the Ospreys out slightly and some missed tackles would prove to be very costly for the Ospreys as Newcastle went on to score their third try of the game and of the Tipuric yellow card period. The conversion was good, and Newcastle led 14-21 after 42minutes.

The Ospreys looked to have hit back immediately when a lovely Morgan Morris break was finished off by the returning Tipuric, but a forward pass was seen by the TMO and play was called back for a Newcastle scrum.

On 55 minutes a Luke Price penalty brought the Ospreys closer as the score closed to 17-21 and the Ospreys went to the bench with Tom Botha, Garyn Phillips, Ifan Phillips, Gareth Evans, Shaun Venter and Mat Protheroe on for Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Fia, Will Griffiths, Morgan-Williams and Giles.

With the game finely balanced, the next score would be crucial and unfortunately for the Ospreys, it was Newcastle who crossed the line but another TMO intervention chalked off the try. The referee went back for an earlier advantage, Newcastle took a quick tap and went through a few phases before they scored their fourth try. This was converted and Newcastle led 17-28.

The Ospreys scored again in the 70 minute after a North break put them in great field position and Botha crashed over from a yard. Price added the conversion to make it 24-28 with 8 minutes left to play. However, try as they might, Newcastle were able to keep hold off the ball and see out the game and the final whistle blew.

This was possibly the Ospreys best chance to win a European knockout game for the first time but a lack of accuracy and precision in the second quarter of the game proved to be decisive. The Ospreys had the chances to put the game away long before half time, but they allowed Newcastle to come back into it. The two yellow cards were harsh, and Newcastle certainly made the most of the two extra men as they scored 21 points and that was just too much for the Ospreys to overcome.

Final Score Ospreys 24-28 Newcastle

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