Ospreys too good for Edinburgh
THE Ospreys clawed their way back into the RaboDirect Pro12 play-off zone with a 24-7 victory over Scottish strugglers Edinburgh at the Liberty Stadium.
Two tries from bulldozing No. 8 Morgan Allen gave the hosts an early 14-0 lead and, although Edinburgh were twice reduced to 13 men, the Ospreys fell short in their bid for a bonus point.
Victory saw the reigning champions leapfrog the Scarlets into fourth in the table, though the standings could alter again this evening when the Llanelli region visit Leinster, who are third.
Already ravaged by injuries and international call-ups, the Ospreys had been forced into further changes after two of their players were suspended following last weekend's 22-10 defeat in Connacht.
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Captain Kahn Fotuali'i moved from scrum-half to wing to deputise for the banned Ross Jones, while James King switched to the back row with Joe Bearman cited for the same offence as Jones.
Edinburgh also had to make a number of alterations, with coach Michael Bradley naming nine players aged 23 or younger.
Edinburgh looked every bit a side devoid of form and confidence in the early exchanges, conceding penalties and inviting the Ospreys into their half.
The hosts took full advantage as they took the lead with a converted try in the sixth minute.
After kicking a penalty to the corner, the Ospreys swarmed into the Edinburgh 22 with a flurry of punchy carries.
Wales international Jonathan Thomas was at the heart of the action, running with power and offloading with a deftness belying his position of second row.
It was one of his slick passes which led to the first try, finding Morgan Allen with a sweet sleight of hand to allow the No. 8 to finish from close range.
Matthew Morgan converted and, although Edinburgh initially threatened to draw level with a surge upfield, the Ospreys marched back into the Gunners' territory to press home their advantage.
With what was almost a carbon copy of the build-up to the first try, Steve Tandy's men kicked to touch and used the line-out as the foundation for an assault on the Edinburgh line.
Thomas was again involved, as was the supremely skilled prop Ryan Bevington, and the result of the attack was identical to the first score as Allen drove over for his second try.
With Morgan's conversion making their lead a healthy 14-0 after only 20 minutes or so, the Ospreys cut loose with a class and cohesion their opponents could barely contain.
Bevington, Lloyd Peers and Fotuali'i all caught the eye as the hosts poured forward, with every player eager to run at their opponents and involve their colleagues with some audacious offloading.
For all their swagger, however, the Ospreys did not extend their advantage before half time — and Edinburgh capitalised on this.
Visiting No. 8 Netani Talei caused the initial damage with a galloping break into the hosts' 22 and, with the ball quickly recycled, Edinburgh swept it wide to flanker Hamish Watson to touch down on his first start for the Scottish side.
The Ospreys' 14-7 half-time lead did not reflect their dominance of possession and territory, and they could not pull themselves further clear in the initial stages of the second half.
Morgan missed a second penalty and the home forwards were not punching holes in the visiting defence like before the interval.
Sensing that his side was lacking the creativity necessary to unlock a belligerent Edinburgh defence, Tandy brought on Wales centre Ashley Beck for his first appearance since injuring his ankle on New Year's Eve.
Although Beck had nothing to do with the next score, the Ospreys added three points to their lead moments after his introduction when Morgan struck a penalty after an infringement at a scrum.
The Pro12 title holders sensed a whiff of blood and, with Edinburgh's Ben Atiga sin-binned for slowing the ball at a ruck, the Ospreys sank their claws into the vulnerable visitors.
The Ospreys pummelled the Gunners' defence until they finally buckled. The opening was a small one but, having spotted a miniscule gap around the fringes of a ruck, Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb dabbed down for his side's third try.
Morgan converted and, with a 24-7 cushion seemingly making sure of victory, the Ospreys turned their attention to claiming a bonus point.
The hosts kicked to the corner at every opportunity, though a combination of handling errors and Scottish defiance frustrated their quest for a fourth try.
Nick De Luca was shown a red card for a late tip-tackle on Tom Grabham but, despite a desperate late onslaught, the Ospreys were unable to claim a bonus point.