Inexperienced Ospreys given powerful workout by Bath
THE Ospreys ended their pre-season preparations with a friendly defeat to Bath as their experimental side were overpowered by a seasoned Aviva Premiership outfit at The Rec.
Fielding a number of young forwards, the Ospreys' scrum was put under severe pressure in the first half, but they led 10-8 thanks to a spectacular team try finished by prop Ryan Bevington.
It was one-way traffic after the interval, however, as Bath ran in tries from Leroy Houston, Semesa Rokoduguni and Ollie Devoto to add to Matt Banahan's first-half score.
With the Pro12 and Premiership seasons only a week away, both sides fielded relatively strong line-ups at The Rec.
The Ospreys were without most of their Welsh internationals, but a youthful pack was complemented by the presence of Test players such Dan Biggar and Ashley Beck behind the scrum.
Ian Evans and Richard Hibbard were named on the bench, becoming the first Welsh-based British & Irish Lions to return to action following their tour of Australia.
Bath's power was evident early on, shoving the Ospreys back from a second-minute scrum and, from the resultant phase, winning a penalty which George Ford converted with ease.
Just a couple of minutes later, that physicality counted against them as Eastmond's high tackle on Biggar allowed the fly-half to bring the Ospreys level.
There was no doubt, however, who held the upper hand up front.
As a player who made 180 appearances for the Ospreys, Paul James was certainly no stranger to the visitors, but their tight-head Dmitri Arhip found it difficult to contain his Welsh counterpart in the scrum.
Bath also flexed their muscles at the line-out, with one driving maul in the tenth minute taking them to the Ospreys' line but ending with a knock-on.
The home side's forward dominance eventually told, with Bath's next maul leading to the opening try.
Again Steve Tandy's men were powerless to resist the rumbling blue and white machine and, after the ball was swept wide, the giant Banahan forced his way through Ross Jones's tackle to touch down in the corner.
If the Ospreys were struggling to compete up front, there was no shortage of cutting edge when they attacked with ball in hand — and they took the lead in fine fashion.
Biggar collected possession in his own half and looked to kick before passing inside to the onrushing Sam Lewis. The openside flanker then found Tom Grabham and, although the winger was tackled in the Bath 22, Bevington popped up by his shoulder to scorch over for a scintillating try which Biggar converted for a 10-8 half-time lead.
Bath began the second half just as they did the first, with a maul forcing their opponents on to the back foot.
Even with the introduction of Welsh international trio Hibbard, Duncan Jones and Ryan Jones, the Ospreys could not keep the hosts at bay.
Although the first wave of attack was repelled, the home side's new signing at No. 8, Leroy Houston, picked up and pierced his way through the Ospreys defence to restore his team's lead.
After Ford's conversion, Bath stretched their advantage further with a try from Rokoduguni, who exploited some weak tackling to claim a converted score which moved Mike Ford's side 22-10 up.
Bath continued to pressurise the visitors as the game entered its closing stages, and they crossed for a fourth and final try when full-back Devoto went over in the corner.
Neath crashed out of the British & Irish up in dramatic fashion last night as a last-minute try from Jon Thomas — converted by James Dixon — gave Bridgend a 17-15 victory.