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Pre Season - Northampton Saints v Ospreys

The Ospreys travelled to Northampton for their second and final pre-season game against the Northampton Saints. The pitch was in in immaculate condition and the weather was good.

The Ospreys run on team was Smith, Parry, Botha, Griffiths, Davies, Roots, Morgan, Morris, Webb, Anscombe, (making his first start for some 741 days), L Morgan, Collins, Watkin, Protheroe and Evans.

The Ospreys kicked off and after a single phase, the Saints kicked to clear. Morris caught the ball and went on a mazy run before his offload did not go to hand, giving the first scrum to Saints where they won a penalty. This was kicked to touch and from the lineout, Saints attacked and went through the phases before the Ospreys ran out of defenders and were beaten by a wide, loopy pass for the opening try, 5-0. The conversion was good and after 5 minutes, Saints led 7-0.

From the kick-off, Saints carved the Ospreys open again but a fortunate interception by Collins saved what looked like a certain try. Collins raced away before kicking the ball ahead of flying winger Protheroe, who picked up the ball in stride and raced away to the corner for the second try of the game. Anscombe added the extras, and it was 7-7 after 9 minutes.

In the 15th minute, the Saints broke again and as the Ospreys wide defence went missing again, Saints scored their second try which was converted to make it 14-7.

The Ospreys won a couple of penalties that Anscombe kicked deep into the Saints’ 22 but each time the maul was easily repelled by the Saints defence. The rain began to fall, and this made handling the ball more difficult, but the Saints played some lovely rugby and looked threatening in possession. They won a 5m scrum when Webb carried the ball back over his own line and the Saints 9 was far too quick of mind and body as he raced over for the Saints’ third try of the game. This was converted and Saints now led 21-7.

The first half was played at a good pace with the Saints taking their chances with the Ospreys not quite able to take theirs. Just before the half time whistle Anscombe came off as a planned substitution.

The second half started with Francis and Taione on for Parry and Botha, and the Ospreys scored almost immediately. Protheroe cut a lovely line and raced away before D Evans kicked through and Collins dived on the ball to score the Ospreys’ second try of the match. The conversion was good, and it was now 21-14.

In a back-and-forth game, the Saints would score next after a lovely break from their inside centre. The ball was moved quickly through the hands and Saints scored their fourth try to make it 26-19. The conversion was wide. The Ospreys made a raft of changes with Morgan-Williams on for Webb, R Jones on for Smith, Regan, Cross and Cracknell on for Davies, Morgan, and Morris respectively.

The Saints looked stronger as they made their changes, but the Ospreys looked disjointed and bereft of leadership and the Saints thought they had scored again after another nice break, but the ref brought play back for a forward pass. Nagy and Thomas-Wheeler were now on for Protheroe, and Collins and Nagy saved a certain try with a good tackle, but Saints maintained possession and scored in the corner to make it 31-19 with the conversion staying wide.

It was Nagy who set up the next try for the Ospreys with a fine break. He exchanged passes with Morgan-Williams who dived across the line for a try that Hawkins converted to make it 31-26 going into the last eight minutes but despite their best efforts and two good chances, the Ospreys were unable to add to their points haul and the game ended with Saints kicking the ball dead.

This was exactly the kind of workout the Ospreys needed before they start the URC in two weeks’ time against the Dragons. There were some plus points – Collins, Watkin, Protheroe and a cameo from Nagy were the pick of the backs with Morris and Morgan the pick of the forwards. There is still plenty of things to work on in these final weeks before the season starts.

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