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Ospreys v Zebre Feb 20th @ Liberty Stadium

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

With the internationals away in camp Wales and some notable absences due to injury, the Ospreys were back in Pro14 action when they faced Zebre at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening. In the reverse fixture at Zebre, the Ospreys had started slowly and struggled to make an impact on the game, before going on to ultimately lose the game. With third place and European qualification up for grabs, this was exactly the sort of game that the Ospreys needed to win.

The Ospreys kicked off and that was about as good as it got for much of the first half. It was a litany of errors, poor execution and poor conditions as the Ospreys struggled to get into the match. Not having any real possession was tantamount to the Ospreys not having territory either as they spent most of the first half defending.

There were 5 lineouts lost in the first 40 minutes as well as 7 penalties against the Ospreys plus a missed Zebre shot at goal and an almost certain try going begging when the Zebre fullback dropped a lovely pass with the line at his mercy.

In spite of the errors and everything, the Ospreys defended to a man and stifled the attacks of Zebre time after time and they even had the temerity to go in at half time in the lead after Josh Thomas kicked a penalty on 40 minutes.

The second half kicked off and the Ospreys certainly tightened things up as they only gave away 3 penalties and lost only two lineouts. The rain continued to fall which made handling tricky at the best of times but despite this both teams tried to play when the situations allowed only to find that their opponents defence was unwilling to break.

On 49 minutes, Tom Botha and Ifan Phillips came on for Ma’a Fia and Sam Parry and a few minutes later Gareth Evans took the field in place of Morgan Morris. The introduction of Evans and Phillips had immediate impact as they combined to win a turnover that Rhys Webb box-kicked clear. Zebre went straight onto the attack and moved the wide but before they could finish off the move, Mat Protheroe went for the interception that would almost certainly have led to a try, but the ball slipped from his grasp and the referee awarded Zebre a scrum for the Protheroe knock on. Zebre tried to attack again from the scrum but more resolute Ospreys defence kept them at bay.

On 59 minutes, Joe Hawkins came on for the hard-running Kieran Williams as the Ospreys continued to introduce fresh legs into the fray. Both teams were placed on a yellow card warning by the referee after a couple of silly penalties were given away by each team. The Ospreys then fell foul of that warning when Phillips was adjudged to have lain on the wrong side of the ruck and the referee showed him the yellow card, meaning the Ospreys would play almost the rest of the game down a man.

Then as the clock ticked towards the 74th minute, the game exploded into life with a moment of sheer brilliance from the Ospreys. A long kick from Thomas put Zebre under pressure and forced them to kick to touch from inside their 22. The clearing kick was not great, and it gave the Ospreys decent field position for an attacking lineout. Will Griffiths, on for Olly Cracknell, soared highest at the lineout and won the ball and set up an Ospreys maul. The Zebre defence thought that they had covered off the problem as they pushed the Ospreys maul towards the touch line, but Rhys Webb had other ideas and burst free from the maul, raced down the touchline, beat the last defender and dived over the line for an amazing individual try. Thomas, who was struggling with cramp, still managed to convert the Webb try and on 75 minutes the Ospreys led 10-0. To see out the remaining few minutes, the Ospreys cleared their bench as Garyn Phillips, Shaun Venter and Keelan Giles came on for Gareth Thomas, Player of the Match Webb, and Thomas with Protheroe moving to 10.

As time ticked towards the 80th and final minute, the Ospreys thought that they had scored another try when Venter kicked the ball through for Giles to chase and although he caught up with the ball and slid over the line with it, he just lost it for s split second and the chance was gone. Playing under advantage and back to 15 players, the Ospreys went for a succession of 5m scrums but were unable to force their way across the line and the referee ended the game in the 83rd minute after a knock on.

Despite not playing particularly well the Ospreys had ground out a much needed and valuable win that will help massively in the fight for that all important third place.

Final Score Ospreys 10 Zebre 0

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